While there are many approaches and techniques involved with primary education, one thing that most people can agree on is that the young and impressionable minds of children are like sponges, soaking up information that is being presented to them. So why not make sure that the information is presented in a fun and interesting way? When it comes to teaching empathy and compassion, rather than a puppet show or storybook time, why not have babies teach elementary school-aged children?
CTV Kitchener reported that the organization, Roots of Empathy, is a big hit with its classroom program that is helping children learn about and develop empathy using babies as the instructors. Rather than just a one-time lesson, each classroom "adopts" an infant who visits the classroom with his or her mother throughout the school year. Roots of Empathy is based in Ontario and has been around since 1996 helping children connect to empathy.
Organization founder and Roots of Empathy president Mary Gordon says that allowing children to witness the baby and parent relationship first hand in a learning environment gives the students a chance to bond with the baby and learn about empathy through "experimental learning."
“What I discovered was that there was a lot of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect,” Gordon told CTV Kitchener. “The common denominator in all of that suffering was the absence of empathy.”
There are many added benefits to this type of learning, besides learning empathy. Studies have shown that when empathy levels go up, levels of aggression and bullying decrease. Overall, students' behavior and attitudes improve and they become kinder to one another.
Experts say that it's common for kids to not understand what all of their feelings mean and because of this, they can have difficulty expressing how they are feeling to others. When communication breaks down, this can lead to children feeling alienated. If this happens, children can become frustrated which can lead to a myriad of problems.
The kids love watching "their classroom baby" grow throughout the year and achieve various milestones which they celebrate along with the baby's mother.
“We always wait patiently for the family to visit,” says Owen McLaughlin, a Grade 5 student at Woodland Park Public School in Cambridge. “It’s a really cool experience.”
Not only is this program great for the kids but it's a win-win for the babies as well.
“He lights up when he sees the kids in the classroom,” says Christina Edmiston, a mother of an infant who participates in the program. “They start to kind of take ownership of him as their own baby. It’s a precious thing to watch unfold.”
Due to the program's success, Roots of Empathy has since expanded to every province in Canada, as well as eleven other countries.
What do you think of this unique program? Do you wish there was one similar to it near you? Let us know in the comments!