The international-based Roots of Empathy program is starting in some Strathmore schools this October to teach kids from kindergarten to grade 9 lessons about empathy not only towards others but towards themselves. In Strathmore, the program only goes until grade 5 because that is the most pivotal year for children to learn and retain information.
Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program that has shown significant effects in reducing levels of aggression and bullying among school children while raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy.
This program started out as an anti-bullying program that quickly turned into something more. As Megan Meston, an instructor of the program explains it is really beneficial to remind students that they are allowed to have big emotions and feelings and they can have empathy not only towards others but to themselves.
"We'll teach them nine different things. So we'll talk to them about crying. We'll talk to them about sleep. We'll talk to them about so much and start with those conversations about what empathy means to them."
Then for Meston's second visit into the classroom, a mom and a baby will come in and visit the children. This shows that when you see a baby fuss you might want to see what it needs right away. Does it need to eat? Does it need its diaper changes? Or maybe it needs some cuddles?
"All that empathy that you feel towards that baby can transfer now to a friend that is in need. It will get the kids to think, 'Oh, my friend is having a hard time, what can I do to help them?' Because with a baby we are all quick to be gentle and loving but why does it have to stop with a baby? We can be so hard on ourselves when we need to be kind to ourselves."
Meston has seen the absolute best results when it comes to kids that are in this program.
"At the end of the year, the kids always say they want to take the program again. They have such a bond with the baby and it is wonderful to see 10 year old kids excited to pick up a baby and see the baby's milestones. They have learned so much on how to show each other and themselves empathy."
If someone in the community wants to be apart of Roots for Empathy there are courses that can be taken every October, it is a weekend course that can be taken and it is all funded by the Roots for Empathy sponsers.
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