LIVERPOOL - “Students are so engaged in the program and always ask me when the baby is coming back,” says Roots of Empathy coordinator, Sally Tanner, who is SchoolsPlus community outreach worker with the South Shore Regional School Board.
It’s not every day that a class of Grade 2/3 students at Dr. John C. Wickwire Academy in Liverpool gets to spend a class with a baby as a teacher. It does, however, happen nine times during the school year as part of the Roots of Empathy program. Baby Summer Wolfe is the guest teacher this year.
According to its website, the Roots of Empathy is an international evidence-based classroom program that has shown significant effect in reducing levels of aggression and bullying among school children while raising social and emotional competence and increasing empathy.
Schools that are involved with the Roots of Empathy program are matched with a family that has a baby no younger than two months old who comes to the classroom nine times over a nine-month period.
“During this time, the class gets to watch the baby grow and develop,” says Tanner.
Before the sessions with the family, Tanner visits the classroom to explain to the students what will happen during the course of the year. She is also there to help facilitate the sessions with the family.
“During each visit, the students read a book, and do a reflective art project,” says Tanner.
There is also a great emphasis put on reflection and empathy. Students learn about why babies cry, and how they are never to be shaken. They learn about teething and all of a baby’s needs, says Tanner.
“The baby becomes our teacher,” says Tanner.
Students try to understand how the baby might be feeling at a particular moment, and are asked to think about how they might deal with the problem, or if they had a similar problem how they might handle it at their current age. It is a time for students to not only learn about the baby, but about themselves.
“If we talk about how a baby needs care, the students then talk about how and when they show caring,” says Tanner.
Tanner says the families enjoy participating in the program as much as the students. They look forward to visiting the classroom, seeing the students, especially they have prepared a song to sing for them. At the end of the program, the family also receives a photo album of their time together.
In the fall of 2018, the Roots of Empathy program will be looking for a family in the Liverpool area who will have a two-month old baby in September or October of that year. If interested in becoming a Roots of Empathy family, please contact Sally Tanner at 902-523-5071.
Learn more about the program at http://www.rootsofempathy.org/