Roots of Empathy

Elliot and I are participating to the Roots of Empathy program. This program uses the relationship between a parent and a developing baby to teach classrooms about empathy. More specifically, Elliot and I will be visiting the same Grade 1 classroom every month for the whole school year; the children in the class will learn what a baby can do at what age, watch him grow and change, sing him songs, make drawings for him, etc. But our visits will really serve as excuses for them to learn about emotions and acquire a vocabulary to talk about them: why is the baby crying? What is his mother doing to calm him? What can YOU do when YOUR friend is crying… You see the picture.

This program, created in 2000, has now been implemented in schools throughout Canada as well as in Australia and New Zealand with children from kindergarten to grade 8 (of course, the activities vary with each age group). It has been shown to reduce bullying issues by teaching kids to put themselves in the shoes of a smaller, much more vulnerable person. With teenagers, it has also reduced unplanned pregnancies by showing them what it really is like to take care of a baby. Teachers love it because it fits within the curriculum. Kids love it and get really attached to “their” baby. And I love it because I feel like I am doing something great for these children, great for Elliot (by exposing him to different experiences and a bunch of new people) and great for society, working to make a better world. Oh, and also because it is just plain fun!

We went for our first visit at the beginning of October. Of course, at 2 months old, Elliot couldn’t do much yet: he barely gave any attention to the toys he was shown, but he loved looking at the faces of all those children. He even gave them a few bright smiles. The questions the kids asked were sometimes funny, but often touching – like when Elliot got fussy and I had to breast-feed him, and two or three girls lifted their hands to say with much delight that their mother “did that to them”, one even adding: “My mother’s milk is sweet”…

Oh, and they already gave us a present.

I’m really looking forward to our next visit… I’ll keep you posted!

4 Responses to “Roots of Empathy”

  1. Danielle Says:

    C’est tout simplement une idée géniale. J’en entends parler pour la première fois et je suis certaine que c’est positif pour tous ceux qui y participent.

  2. sophie Says:

    Eh, tu as sûrement plein de temps libre (après tout, tu n’as que 3 enfants à la maison!), tu pourrais essayer de partir le prgramme en France! Malheureusement, les moniteurs qui font les visites avec moi pour donner le programme (ainsi qu’une visite préparatoire et une visite de suivi, chaque mois) sont bénévoles… Mais on ne sait jamais, ils te paieraient peut-être un vol pour Toronto pour aller suivre la formation!

  3. Danielle Says:

    C’est vrai, moi qui me demandais justement quoi faire de mon temps! Mais tu ne penses pas que le fait que les trois aient commencé l’école pose problème? Ils ne sont plus particulièrement intéressants! Mais j’avais emmené Olivier dans mes cours de pédiatrie comme cobaye quand il avait 5 mois! C’était bien, même si c’étaient des adultes!

  4. sophie Says:

    Il faudrait juste que tu te trouves un autre bébé à ammener en classe… Mais sans connaître beaucoup ta Nana, j’ai comme l’impression qu’elle serait jalouse et n’aimerait pas trop l’idée. Je me trompe?