Babies teach life skills
A pilot programme that uses babies to reduce violence and aggression among school children has been hailed a success.
A celebration took place recently for Roots of Empathy to thank those involved, including principals, teachers, students, as well as parents and babies.
At least 150 people attended the event which acknowledged their involvement in helping to raise the social and emotional competence of up to 3000 school pupils through regular contact with a newborn.
Auckland Roots of Empathy instructor Jenny Hodgkinson says the lessons highlight children building a relationship with a baby, to help make connections with other people.
“First they learn about the baby’s feelings, then their own feelings and finally they understand other people’s feelings,” she says.
Grey Lynn School acting principal Sepora Mauigoa says the activities involved in the programme have many links to the classroom curriculum of its year 5 pupils.
“Students use maths skills when they calculate and chart the baby’s weight and measurement and literature is used as a way to open the door to feelings and perspective taking,” she says.
“The discussion and reflection that follows builds solidarity and empathy.
“We are definitely keen to run the programme next year.”
The international programme, which started in Canada in 1996, was introduced as a three-year pilot programme to New Zealand by the Peace Foundation in 2007.
At the trial’s completion, 35 programmes were delivered to 30 schools within Auckland.
It was funded by the Social De- velopment, Health and Education ministries, with additional support from charities and philanthropists.
Auckland liaison co-ordinator Rachel Turner says the event celebrated not only a wonderful year, but also the end of the pilot.
“That is 3000 10-year-old advocates going back to their communities saying: ‘Never shake a baby’ and ‘Love grows brains’. Important messages for a country where our child abuse rates are quite frankly unacceptable.”
National statistics collected by the Peace Foundation show that 98 percent of students reported learning how to label a baby’s feelings and 90 percent of students reported that the programme helped them understand that it is okay to be different.
Based on the success of the pilot, the Peace Foundation hopes to officially launch Roots of Empathy nationwide this year.