Kindergarten students at Erickson Elementary School said goodbye to eight-month-old Oliver on May 31, when this year’s Roots of Empathy program concluded.
Oliver’s parents, Matt and Jessica DeBoon, have been bringing Oliver to visit the students since November as part of the course that helps them be in touch with their feelings.
“If they’ve got issues, this is a good place to bring it out,” said Melanie Skerik, now in her fourth year of teaching the program.
By letting children see that the baby isn’t being bad when he’s crying, for example, students can see that it’s OK to express their feelings.
“So they’re never bad,” said Skerik.
Roots of Empathy has been running in the Creston Valley for over 15 years, said key point person Nancy DeVuono, a retired teacher and principal. It has had a positive effect in schools, helping students to think about others.
“The focus is to prevent bullying through the promotion of empathy,” she said.