The babies were all aged between two and four months at the start of the programmes in October and all celebrated their first birthdays in the summer. Armagh Teachers Centre where the event took place was transformed into a large play area and an extra special moment was when the babies stopped playing to listen to the special Roots of Empathy song.
The Roots of Empathy programme was founded in Canada in 1996 by Mary Gordon and has reached more than a million children worldwide.
During the 27 week classroom based programme, a specially trained instructor guides the children to observe, share and celebrate the development of their special baby. The programme promotes social and emotional understanding, giving pupils a unique opportunity to observe the relationship between the baby and parent while becoming more attuned to their own feelings and feelings of others.
A recent evaluation of Roots of Empathy by Queens University provides strong evidence that it leads to a positive effect on behaviour and showed that it is a cost effective programme, complementing the current curriculum and has been well received in schools.
The parents were thanked for sharing the precious first year of their baby’s life and for the valuable contribution their presence made to the lives of the children in the class and to the school.
A class teacher commented that the Roots of Empathy was: “An excellent programme and fantastic experience for the children. As a teacher I can see the benefits of the programme throughout the year. I was able to integrate the themes focused on throughout the year structurally in lessons and incidentally by supporting the children to reflect on their actions. We look forward to running the programme again next year.”
A parent who participated in the programme with her son expressed how she and her whole family had benefited: “Roots of Empathy has highlighted each special stage of his development and we were all able to savour every minute. We are delighted that we have been able to be part of this programme.”
Gerard Rocks, Assistant Director of Promoting Wellbeing for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust said: “This programme is a great example of how early intervention can help young people to better cope with their emotions and learn how to build positive, healthy relationships in preparation for the challenges they may face in adulthood.”
The Roots of Empathy Programme is funded by the Public Health Agency as part of their commitment to give every child the best possible start in life and is coordinated and led by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust in partnership with the Education Authority, Southern Region.
“Education is the most effective peace-building institution in the land. Our schools serve as our Ministry of Peace.” Mary Gordon, Founder and President of Roots of Empathy