Roots of Empathy in Moose Jaw: What’s on Your Back to School List?
As fall approaches and the “Back to School” season begins, backpacks are filled with an array of supplies for the year. Since the fall of 2013, Instructors in our community have also packed bags getting ready to return to school. But instead of paper and pencils, these Instructors pack a large green blanket, colorful picture books, brightly colored baby toys and a sweet-faced baby doll. These are no ordinary Instructors, they are also joined by a newborn baby in the classroom! Since October 2013, twenty eight infants have accompanied Roots of Empathy Instructors to meet with 700 elementary aged children in their classrooms throughout the city of Moose Jaw. Through the Roots of Empathy program elementary aged children across our city have grown in their ability to feel empathy for one another and treat each other with respect.
This program is a truly unique approach to the prevention of bullying because it is delivered in partnership with a baby and their parent(s) who visit the classroom every month for one school year. Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based program that has shown dramatic effect in reducing levels of aggression and violence among school children while raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy. As the children follow the development of “their” baby, they develop new awareness and skills to last a lifetime including: Emotional Literacy, Neuroscience, Temperament, Inclusion, Infant Safety & Development, Perspective Taking, Attachment / Attunement, Participatory Democracy and Violence Prevention.
Roots of Empathy is offered in every province in Canada as well as on three continents around the world. It came to Saskatchewan in 2011 and Moose Jaw was the first city in Southern SK to adopt the program through strong local partnerships including the Partners Against Violence committee, both school divisions, Hillcrest Church and many others. Since opening in Moose Jaw, 27 programs have been delivered locally in 11 different schools, with over 700 students benefiting from the program. Both the Holy Trinity Catholic School and Prairie South School Divisions have participated in hosting the program as well as training Instructors to deliver Roots of Empathy.
In the spring of 2017, the pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak in Moose Jaw prevented our programs from returning to school because of risks to our infant “teachers.” Once the outbreak clears we hope to resume programs as usual and continue to change to the world, child by child. We are currently recruiting families with babies who were born in June, July or August 2018 to partner with us in the classroom this fall and impact the children of Moose Jaw!
Learn more about Roots of Empathy at www.rootsofempathy.org
Daycee Richardson is the Community Advocate at Hillcrest Church and the local Key Point Person for Roots of Empathy. She can be reached at daycee@hillcrestmj. com