Roots of Empathy programming returning to Strathmore schools

The Roots of Empathy program is once again returning to Strathmore schools this year to help teach kids empathy toward both others, as well as themselves.

In the classroom setting, students will learn about empathy through their observations of a baby doll, led by a trained instructor.

Laurie Morin, Alberta provincial manager for Roots of Empathy, said the charity program has been in town since 2006, and tends to average roughly five programs per year.

“We have been here for quite some time with a consistent presence … (and) a lot of the instructors currently delivering the program have been involved with delivering the program for the past, roughly four years,” she said. “Basically, our mission is to build caring, peaceful, and civil societies, and how we do that is through the experiential learning where the children will develop an understanding and vocabulary for the baby’s feelings.”

Ultimately, the baby is a tool for aiding children to visualize and experience practicing empathy in a way that is then directly translatable toward interacting with actual other people.

Morin explained as students go through the exercises, there are effectively no wrong answers; instead, students share whatever they think in response to various situations or problems.

“That helps them build that connection with the baby, that bond with the baby, and also helps them to understand their own feelings by introspectively identifying what they think a baby might be feeling too,” said Morin. “That builds connection, and it also gives them the tools to understand, identify their own feelings … and it is also a bit of early literacy because it introduces vocabulary to identify and recognize emotions.”

She added Roots of Empathy programming is delivered in nine themes over 27 classrooms, divided into several categories.

The idea behind all of the programs is to focus on different lessons for each one, increasing awareness of empathy and emotions, and identifying words to put towards feelings in order to get children to open up and communicate effectively.

Different curriculums are available to students based on their age groups, however once a student is a part of the program, the idea is to have them consistently learning it from the same teacher throughout the year, and potentially even longer. The goal being to create a safe and comfortable space where students can express their feelings and be open to talking about them.

More information regarding the Roots of Empathy program is available through their website.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times