Tiny teachers await their next assignment as Roots of Empathy celebrates 20 years.

Tiny teachers await their next assignment as Roots of Empathy celebrates 20 years.

‘Roots’ firmly established

Roots of Empathy celebrates 20 years in Surrey

On May 25, parents, teachers, students and family members gathered to celebrate the worlds’ youngest and tiniest teachers at Holly Elementary School in Surrey.

Babies! Yes, babies not only come with tiny socks and infectious giggles, they are also full of a wealth of knowledge.

Participating classrooms are assigned a baby at the beginning of the school year. The “teacher” and parent visit their assigned classroom every month, build a bond, and learn from one another. The Roots of Empathy (ROE) instructor goes through various themes, feelings and milestones at each visit with the class.

The intention of having the baby as the “teacher” is that the children are able to identify, question, clarify, and reflect on each theme that is approached during their interactions. As the baby develops and grows throughout the school year, his/her behaviour changes as well. The children are able to monitor this change and the feelings associated with it. For example, when the baby cries, does he or she cry because of a noise, a toy, being away from mom, or because they are tired? And then what do we feel when we see a baby cry? Do we want to help or ignore them?

Holly Elementary teacher Kelly Moore participated in the program for the first time this year. It is her belief that ROE addresses issues of aggression and allows for a focus on individual differences. Having children develop empathy towards others allows for lower level of violence and bullying, she said.

“Having the children develop alongside the baby is quite an insightful thing to see,” added a Cloverdale mom involved with the program. “Not only are the children learning on how to address different behaviours, we as caregivers are also engaged and learning from their interactions with the baby.”

ROE began as a pilot program that now reaches over 120,000 children in British Columbia. Surrey had 25 babies and parents participating in the volunteer program and reached out to 732 children.

For more information on the program, visit www.rootsofempathy.org.

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