How do you learn empathy, tolerance and understanding? With a baby as your teacher of course!
Mrs. Palmer’s Kindergarten children at Yaqan Nukiy Elementary school are taking part in the world-renowned, Canadian-based program called Roots of Empathy which teaches children about communication, anti-bullying and understanding their own and others’ feelings. Their Roots of Empathy facilitator is Educational Assistant Devon Baltrus and their tiny teacher is eight month old Isolde (Issy) Bilcik.
Over a period of ten months, Devon delivers weekly lessons from the Roots of Empathy social-emotional skills curriculum. Teacher Virginia Palmer follows up with activities throughout the week. Once each month the special guest Issy arrives with her mom (Jessica) and dad (Robin Louie) and the children gather in quiet anticipation around the magical green blanket. The children sing their “Hello Baby Issy” song as Jessica carries her around the circle and children are invited to touch her tiny toes in greeting. As the lesson continues, the children observe Issy on the blanket, interacting with various toys and books and marvel at her growth and progress since their last visit. There are lots of exclamations and giggles. Facilitator Devon leads the discussion on a different topic each visit and the children can ask questions and make connections to their own feelings and experiences. The warmth and caring generated by the close observation and interaction with a small baby is both powerful and palpable.
Other schools in the Creston area have hosted Roots of Empathy programs in the past. Currently, Chantal Lunardi is facilitating a Roots program at Crawford Bay Elementary Secondary School. If you are interested in learning more about Roots of Empathy visit www.rootsofempathy.org. Let your school district know if you would like to run a program in your school. You may also contact Nancy DeVuono at email@example.com for information about setting up a program in the Creston area.