This year P2 Miss Younger’s class and P2s in Mrs Gunstone and Mrs Chadwick’s class are experiencing a very special programme called Roots of Empathy. The programme is delivered by trained Instructor Mrs Harris-Toner.
The programme aims to build caring, peaceful and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults. The long term focus of Roots of Empathy is to build the capacity of the next generation for responsible citizenship and responsive parenting. And in the short term, Roots of Empathy focuses on raising levels of empathy, resulting in more respectful and caring relationships and reduced levels of bullying and aggression.
At the heart of the programme are a neighbourhood infant and parent who visit the classroom regularly over the school year. Our Roots of Empathy family is Sally and her son Oliver. Our Instructor Mrs Harris-Toner coaches the children to observe the baby’s development and to label the baby’s feelings and intentions. In this experiential learning, the baby is the “Teacher” and a lever that the Instructor uses to help children to identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others. The children especially enjoyed meeting Baby Oliver and asking his mum Sally lots of interesting questions.
The emotional literacy taught in the programme lays the foundation for more safe and caring classrooms, where children are the “Changers.” They are more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy), and are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically and emotionally hurt each other. The cognitive aspect of empathy is perspective-taking and the effective aspect is emotion. Roots of Empathy educates both the mind and heart. Research on the Roots of Empathy program has shown that children who participate in the program know more about emotions and feelings, are kinder to their friends, are less aggressive and bully other children less than those who do not have Roots of Empathy. The programme covers many topics including crying, caring for a baby, emotions, sleep, safety and communication.
In the Pre Family Visit: we focus on infant development and preparation for Family Visit. This offers the children the opportunity to predict what changes they may see in the baby’s development at the Family Visit.
The Family Visit: Mrs Harris-Toner guides children’s observations of the baby’s feelings, intentions, and the attachment relationship. Also demonstrating the baby’s physical and emotional development and temperament, and interacts with the baby through music (eg. singing songs) and early learning games (e.g. peek-a-boo) and the children ask the parents questions about the baby.
Post Family Visit: Where the children reflect on their own feelings and focus on understanding the feelings of others (empathy). Also the programme utilises children’s literature and art/writing are used to foster perspective taking, the cognitive aspect of empathy.
For more information please ask Mrs Harris-Toner, Miss Younger, Mrs Gunstone and Mrs Chadwick. Also please check out http://www.rootsofempathy.org.
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