Ba­bies teach life skills

Central Leader - - News - By Carly Tawhiao

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.

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