Roots of Empathy

PEPS is proud to be a supporter of the Roots of Empathy program in Seattle, now beginning its 13th year of partnership with elementary schools in our community!

Roots of Empathy is currently looking for volunteer families with infants born in June, July, or August.

What is Roots of Empathy? 
Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program that has shown significant effect in reducing levels of aggression among school children while raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy.  Roots of Empathy was created in 1996 by Mary Gordon, an internationally recognized and award-winning social entrepreneur, author, educator, child advocate, and parenting expert.  In 2007, Seattle became the first US city to host Roots of Empathy.  The program is now offered in schools in 13 different countries around the world on 3 continents and in 4 different languages.

Click here to watch a short feature about Roots of Empathy that was created by BBC World Hacks – shared and viewed more than 20 million times internationally.  

How Does It Work?  

The heart of the program is a community family with an infant (2-4 months at the beginning of the program) and parent who visit a selected classroom every three weeks over a school year – for a total of 9 visits. During the visit, 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. The “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. The Roots of Empathy Instructor, who follows a curriculum, visits the classroom both the week before and the week after each family visit – for a total of 27 Roots of Empathy classes.

Why a Parent and Baby? 
Children witness the attunement of the parent and infant in that most influential first relationship: a living example of empathy. The program uses this attachment relationship to demonstrate how the parent regulates the baby’s emotions. Empathy is also a key ingredient to responsible citizenship and responsive parenting.  Information on infant safety and development helps children to be more aware of issues of infant vulnerability such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Shaken Baby Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and second-hand smoke. Observations of a loving parent-child relationship give children a model of responsible parenting.

Does it work? 
The program has been widely evaluated across three continents for over 18 years and is proven to result in improved empathy, increased emotional understanding, decreased aggression and bullying and improved pro-social behavior among participating students. Research also demonstrates that these improvements are sustained and even strengthened over time.

Would you like to volunteer as a Roots of Empathy family this school year or receive more information? 

Please contact Melissa Soltani, Roots of Empathy Program Manager.