Roots of Empathy is an international, evidence-based classroom program that has shown significant effect in reducing levels of aggression among schoolchildren by raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy. The program is designed for children ages 5 to 13. In Canada, the program is delivered in English and French and reaches rural, urban, and remote communities including Indigenous communities. The program is also in New Zealand, the United States, the Republic of Ireland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, Germany, Switzerland and Costa Rica. In 2018 we'll be starting in the Netherlands.
At the heart of the program are a neighbourhood infant and parent who visit the classroom every three weeks over the school year. A trained Roots of Empathy Instructor coaches students to observe the baby's development and to label the baby's feelings. In this experiential learning, the baby is the “Teacher” and a lever, which the instructor uses to help children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others. This “emotional literacy” taught in the program lays the foundation for safer and more caring classrooms, where children are the “Changers”. They are more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy) and are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically and emotionally hurt each other through bullying and other cruelties. In the Roots of Empathy program children learn how to challenge cruelty and injustice. Messages of social inclusion and activities that are consensus building contribute to a culture of caring that changes the tone of the classroom. The Instructor also visits before and after each family visit to prepare and reinforce teachings using a specialized lesson plan for each visit. Research results from national and international evaluations of Roots of Empathy indicate significant reductions in aggression and increases in pro-social behaviour.