A program called ‘Roots of Empathy‘ is being run in primary schools across Canada, the US and now expanding into Europe, the UK and New Zealand. The program is teaching children about empathy by inviting babies and their parents into the classroom to teach children how to relate and understand how others feel.
“Seeds of Empathy is really teaching about perspective taking and emotional literacy, and we think children who are exposed to these babies in the seeds program will have more vibrant and more action reaction to the emotions of others.”
Andrew Meltzoff, Neuroscientist
Nurturing ‘Emotional literacy’ is the aim, the not-for-profit organisation that run the program say that the experience children have relating to babies in the classroom help to make them more caring and peaceful adults.
A regular class of Empathy involves a ‘welcoming song’ for the little bundle of infant joy, then a trained ‘Family Guide’ has the students observe the baby’s development and label the baby’s feelings. The baby and their parent, from the local community, visits periodically throughout the year so that the students are able to track the baby’s development and feel bonded with the family. The students learn to understand their own feelings through identifying with the baby’s feeling and therefore are able to empathise more with others.
In the US schools are seeing a reduction of bullying and violence as a result of the program. Students from Maury Elementary School spoke to The Washington Post saying they felt they were able to make better behaviour choices and trust one another more, as a result of having spent time with baby “June” during their Empathy class. Four students in The Washington Post special video report said they didn’t respond with violence or exclude or verbally abuse other kids, as would normally do, because they thought of how it would feel for the other person.