THUNDER BAY – Since Mary Gordon founded Roots of Empathy in 1996, it has grown exponentially and today is conducted in almost 900 classrooms in the province, having reached a total of 165,000 children in Ontario alone. The program is also hosted at schools in every province across the country as well as in classrooms in New Zealand, the United States, the Isle of Man, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Through this model of experiential social and emotional learning (SEL), the baby is the “Teacher” and a catalyst, helping children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others – empathy.
By pairing volunteer parents and their baby with classroom students, Roots of Empathy teaches school children how to recognize and develop positive and healthy relationships in the future. Over the school year, a trained Roots of Empathy Instructor guides the children as they engage with the baby and parent, observing their relationship, learning to understand the baby?s intentions and emotions, and acknowledging milestones in the baby?s development. In class visits before and after each of these „Family? visits, the Instructor guides the children to further explore each of the nine themes covered in the 27 week program.
Studies have shown that school children who participated in Roots of Empathy programs experienced a decrease in levels of aggression – including bullying – and an increase in empathy and social/emotional competence.
|We’re teaching kids to self-regulate by helping them read their own cues, and those of their friends, to perceive and respond to situations in a way that develops empathy. And this is fundamental to having healthy relationships.” – Mary Gordon, Founder/President|
A Manitoba study published in 2011 concluded the program cut student fights in half immediately and continued to “promote optimal social contact” three years later. Additional Studies concur that once students? abilities to understand the baby?s emotions improved, they were able to independently offer possible causes for the baby?s crying or reactions. As a result, students were more likely to exhibit prosocial behaviors such as acts of kindness, sharing, helping and understanding.
At the Clinton Global Initiative Meeting in New York in September 2011, the NoVo Foundation, promoter of societal transformation, launched its Social and Emotional Learning Action Network White Paper, which cites Roots of Empathy as “one of the finest evidence-based programs … of emotional literacy, using a well-tested, research-based curriculum to support student observations and interactions that lead to an increase in empathy and pro-sociability, as well as a decrease in aggression, bullying and negative behaviour…”
At a time when stories of marginalization, aggression and bullying abound, educators are recognizing that social and emotional learning is as important to the success of their students as the traditional areas of study. And the evidence-based Roots of Empathy is just such an SEL program that, as Minister of Education Hon. Laurel Broten notes, is positively changing the school environment.
|Hear Mary Gordon Speak Live at Roots of Empathy Fundraising Event
May 29th, 2012 at 7:30PM Victoria Inn, 555 Arthur St. W., Thunder BayFor more information or tickets to the Mary Gordon event please contact Our Kids Count at 623-0292 ext. 228 or Nadine Turcotte at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Gordon is the Founder/President and inspiration behind Roots of Empathy and Seeds of Empathy and is recognized internationally as an award-winning social entrepreneur, educator, author, child advocate and parenting expert who has created programs informed by the power of empathy. She is also a Member of the Order of Canada, the first female Ashoka Fellow and was recently awarded the esteemed Ernest C. Manning Innovation Award that recognized her work as an internationally lauded social innovation.
Ms Gordon speaks and consults to governments, educational organizations, and public institutions. Her 2005 Canadian bestseller, Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child, was ranked as one of the Top 100 Books of the Year by the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper. In February 2012, Ms Gordon participated in an invitation-only symposium on Youth Meanness and Cruelty, held by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society in association with the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the MacArthur Foundation. The purpose of the symposium was to identify key issues which would inform the mission and mandate of the Born This Way Foundation, launched by Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta on February 29th.
In 2008, National Chief Phil Fontaine and the Assembly of First Nations passed Resolution 38 to support Roots of Empathy and Seeds of Empathy in First Nations schools across Canada. Ms Gordon is committed to making her program available to Aboriginal communities, which is currently offered in 15 First Nations communities and influencing students in 77 more programs with high Aboriginal populations in Ontario.