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Mary Gordon, Roots of Empathy's Founder/President, reads aloud her children's story Daniel's Day. It's a story of a little boy who starts out with a yucky day, that just gets yuckier...and who helps him make it better. Mary's daughter, Melanie Gordon, did the illustrations.
Remember to consult the ROE website for helpful resources and information to bring empathy into your home!
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We asked the participating Grade 1 teachers to share their thoughts of the ROE program. This is what they said.
“I teach grade one language arts at Wakefield school this year. I am caring, generous, outgoing and excited about this program and looking forward to seeing it evolve.
The Roots of Empathy program brings smiles, giggles, curiosity and excitement within our students.
Students are always looking forward to seeing baby Ira and his mom Jen.
Baby Ira is fantastic, curious and likes to see all the little faces around the green carpet during his visits.
The Roots of Empathy program is not only happening at school, some parents even commented on how much their child keeps talking about it at home and how much fun it is.
I am hoping the Roots of Empathy program will accomplish some positive gains in terms of student awareness, kindness and create or grow more empathy among each other in our class and other students within our school.”
“This is my sixth year teaching Cycle 1 at Wakefield Elementary School. I live in Masham with my husband, a dog and a cat. We have a blended family with 5 adult children, 4 grandchildren and another one due in April.
I have been extremely lucky to teach cycle one students for over 25 years. I am always reflecting on my teaching practices and willing to integrate new ideas into the classroom. I became involved in ROE due to my curiosity about the benefits of the program for my students and because it is hands-on and involves real-life experiences.
The students are enjoying all aspects of the program but especially when the mother and baby visit. They are excited to interact with baby Ryder and observe his growth each month. The students are engaged in singing, choosing toys for him, making him smile and trying to get his attention. They are eagerly participating in conversations comparing and making connections between their development and baby Ryder.
There are numerous literacy connections that are made during each pre and post baby visit. Beautiful picture books, rich discussions and writing are also important parts of the program. The grade one students are absolutely involved in Roots of Empathy.”
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We asked our instructors why they were interested in becoming volunteers for the Program. This is what they shared.
“I am a Mom with 2 kids, age 11 and 14.
When I heard about Roots of Empathy a few months ago, I thought the idea of bringing a baby into the classroom as a way to connect with kids was both simple and brilliant. I could only imagine that making the connection with a baby, and its vulnerability and loveability, was a great way to make parallels with all children and people about the need to treat each other with respect and dignity. If you would never hurt a baby with words or actions, why then would you do that to another child or person? Everyone is different, and it is an ongoing challenge even for adults to accept each other as they are!
I would hope that the children would carry these ideas through to other parts of their lives, in a way that becomes second nature. It may be a bit early yet to see the benefits; however, I do see a growing connection to baby Ira and genuine curiosity about him.”
“I’m a former teacher and now writer but I miss being in the classroom and thought this program was a really nice way to foster empathy in kids and also for me personally to be around the smiling faces of kids (and babies!) again. It has been a total joy to see how well the kids respond to being around a baby and how much they have to share with us about their inner feelings, things they might not talk about normally in the classroom. The kids are so thrilled every minute baby Ryder is around and seem to be forming a true connection with him. They are especially intrigued to see how much he has grown (along with being able to do more stuff) each time they see him.
One of our themes was about crying. After talking about all the reasons babies might cry, we talked about crying in general and that everyone cries, not just babies, and reasons why we might cry. Something that came out of it was the idea of hurt feelings. Students took turns talking about ways they’ve had their feelings hurt and we talked about what we should do if we see someone with hurt feelings. Ms. Badger and I were blown away by some of the stories the kids shared.”
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Here is what Baby Ira's mom is saying about Roots of Empathy .....
"My name is Jen Coorsh. I have a background in farming and working with children and youth. Most recently I have been working with a school garden education program in Ottawa and with a local preschool. Ira is my first child and it is such an interesting and exciting experience.
I chose to participate with Roots of Empathy because I believe that as humans, especially children, we are hardwired for connection, empathy and trust. I think it is easy to default to the individualistic, competitive worldview and Roots of Empathy shines a light on the possibility of creating a culture of interconnection and compassion. I believe this program creates small but meaningful opportunities for children and youth to experience and build on connection and empathy in their lives. So far the students we meet with are very engaged and interested in Ira’s growth and abilities. Their relationship to Ira seems to ground them as they explore his capacity and experiences while reflecting on their own.”
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Here's what Baby Ryder's Mom is saying about Roots of Empathy ....
“I’m thrilled to be a part of the Roots of Empathy program this year. As a teacher at the school, I had been hearing about the program for a good part of the last school year. The program had my full support from the get go, although I never imagined I would be participating as a baby/parent team.
I moved to Ottawa from Montreal in 2013 and I still remember my first visit to Wakefield. I fell in love with the area and got a replacement position at the school in 2015. The rest is history. My partner and I moved to Masham and welcomed Ryder not long after.
I wanted to be involved with Roots of Empathy because I believe in the program’s mission of developing empathy in children. If Ryder can help accomplish this, what a special opportunity. I also thought it was a nice thing to do with him while on maternity leave. It has been so neat watching the interaction between the students and Ryder. They are excited to see him and they treat him with such care and kindness. I love listening to them relate to some of his needs, and as his parent, love watching him look at them all in amazement.”
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The idea of bringing Roots of Empathy to the school started with Danielle Schami. She is a parent at Wakefield Elementary with children in Grades 6 and 4. You will recognize her at the Wakefield Market as the owner of Franktown House Flowers.
In the Principal's words .....
Julie recollects Danielle approaching her two years ago about the possibility of having Roots of Empathy in Wakefield School.
“It has taken time, dedication and effort but finally with the community’s support, we have been able to introduce the program to the school. Whenever I look at introducing new programs to the school, I always ask myself what will be the impact on our students, staff, parents and the community. I know that the students directly involved already are showing signs of the baby’s visit having a positive impact- one parent mentioned to the teacher that their son is more empathetic towards his baby sister at home. The kids are talking about the babies in class and at home very often.
I also want the other students in the school to know about the baby visits and what is happening. We are doing this by sharing photos and updates at our monthly assemblies, as well as keeping a bulletin board of photos in the school.
I feel like this program will not only contribute to our school climate in a positive way, it will help to shape the future community members and citizens of Wakefield and the world. Having empathy allows us to see the world from another person’s point of view. When we can do this, we can have successful relationships because we can see their needs and intentions. It is this kind of thinking that we need to support in our students so they can navigate their world and create a kind, caring future.”
WEHSA's role ....
WEHSA was approached by Danielle about the Roots of Empathy Program back when it was still PPO (Parent Participation Organization). We were fully supportive then as we are now to bringing the program to the school. As a home and school, we now have the financial autonomy to support initiatives at the school, and we were thrilled to throw our support behind the program when Danielle approached us again. Thank you, Danielle, for not giving up!
In collaboration with the school, WEHSA helped organize the Course for Kindness Walk-a-thon to raise funds to make the Program a reality at the School. The response and generosity from our school families was overwhelming surpassing everyone's expectations as well as our funding goal. Over $9,600 was raised, which more than covered the training of the two volunteer instructors. (Stay tuned for highlights of the Walk-a-thon in an upcoming post.)
We are proud to say that Wakefield Elementary School is among the first schools in Quebec offering the program.
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The school and WEHSA are happy to announce that we will be bringing you regular updates on the Roots of Empathy program through the WEHSA website. The program is currently being offered to both of our Grade 1 classes.
We have created a blog called "Roots of Empathy News" or "ROE News", for short, where we will be posting highlights and happenings on the program. We hope you will check in regularly to find out about the latest happenings.
We would have liked to begin sharing news from the get-go, but it was very important to have the proper permissions for publication from all the participants in our program.
We encourage you to share ROE News with your child, family and friends. We would also love to hear from you. The blog has a comment feature where you can share your thoughts.
Over the next few weeks we will be catching up a little bit. You will get to learn how ROE came to be at the school, meet the babies and their families, and the instructors, as well as see pictures from our Course for Kindness Walk-a-thon where funds raised through your generosity made ROE a reality at our school.
As a first post, we would like to remind everyone of ROE's objectives which are outlined below. For more detailed information, please visit www.rootsofempathy.org.
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Don't forget! As part of our Walk-a-Thon, all students from each grade will have a chance to win prizes for participating in the "Course for Kindness" Walk-a-Thon.
Prizes will be drawn by our very own 'Tracksuit Luke'.
We thank La Toque and Ma Boule for generously donating gift certificates in support of the Walk-a-Thon.
Good luck to our students! :)
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We are thrilled to share the news that our two volunteer instructor have started working and the babies and their families have visited the classes. The school has set-up a bulletin board between the school office and the multipurpose room to share updates and pictures, and we encourage everyone to take a look when you are at the school!
While we have met our target to raise funds to train our two instructors, there are annual ongoing costs for the maintenance of the program estimated at between $1,000 to $1,200 a year. As such. we are welcoming donations to help cover these costs.
Thank you to our school families in supporting the "Course for Kindness" Walk-a-Thon!
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Thank you to our Wakefield families and community for supporting our "Course of Kindness" Walk-a-Thon! We all had a blast and raised over $6,000!
WEHSA is proud to support the Roots of Empathy program at our school and has committed to help raise funds to cover the cost of training volunteer instructors plus annual fees to run the program.
Earlier this month two volunteers from our community, both moms of current or former WES students, followed a three-day intensive training by Roots of Empathy. They made their first weekly visits to the two Grade 1 classrooms on Oct 17. This week the babies will be introduced to the students, thus will begin the journey of observing the infants' development over the course of the school year. Very exciting initiative!
At the heart of the Roots of Empathy program are classroom visits by an infant and their parent. Through guided observations of this loving relationship, children learn to identify and reflect on their own thoughts, feelings, and those of others. Roots of Empathy classrooms also foster an inclusive environment and encourage children to better understand the perspective of others.
The power of a secure relationship between an infant and parent is the first and most powerful model of empathy. Through experiential learning in the classroom where all children benefit from observing the loving attachment relationship between the infant and parent who visit the classroom nine times through the school year. The Instructor uses this experiential learning to help children reflect on their own temperaments and development. The children come to understand that while they are all different, they share the same feelings. When the children find the humanity in the baby, they then find it in themselves and one another – empathy. By the end of the year this change from within results in an increase in self-regulation, resilience and wellbeing. The program also benefits the infant’s parents, classroom teachers, and school staff and as each child becomes more caring, helpful and inclusive within their classroom, they carry those behaviours to their homes, school hallways and community environment.
Watch this 2-min video for a quick intro to Roots of Empathy.