Roots of Empathy
We have previously been involved in a programme called Roots of Empathy (ROE). This programme teaches children about feelings, their own feelings and the feelings of others. Once every three weeks a baby and his/her parent(s) visited the classroom. A trained ROE instructor gathered the children in the classroom around a green blanket and together they watched the baby grow.
The children predict and cheer when their ROE baby reaches the 'developmental milestones' of the first year. "She can roll over!" "He got his first tooth!" "He can sit up!" "She can crawl!"
The ROE instructor also coaches the children in observing the baby and reading the cues the baby gives as to how the baby is feeling: "Is the baby happy or sad?" "How can you tell?" We use the discussion as a lever for the children to talk about their own emotions and to understand how their classmates feel: "Do you smile when you are happy?" "How can you tell if your friend is happy?" Being able to understand how other people are feeling is called empathy. The ROE instructor also visits the classroom before and after each family visit to prepare and reinforce teachings using a specialised lesson plan for each visit.
Family visits may include breast/bottle feeding and changing of the baby's clothes and nappy. This helps the children develop their understanding of how to appropriately care for a baby and will be carried out in a highly sensitive manner.
For more than ten years across Canada and internationally, thousands of children are learning respect and care for one another with the lessons started through their ROE baby.
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