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Roots of Empathy is a programme for schools that is geared towards supporting pupils in their development of empathy and compassion, and their dedication to the common good. The non-profit organisation brings families with babies into school classes so that pupils can learn by observing the babies. Parent-child relationships demonstrate a lot about caring, human needs and how these needs can be met. The organisation hopes that their approach will enable children to learn how to better recognise emotions, interpret facial expressions, to accept the individual temperament of every being and thereby also better understand themselves and their classmates. While dealing with the temperament of the baby, the pupils also think about their own personalities. Moreover, when they try to solve the baby’s problems, they also learn to take their own problems seriously and how to resolve them, but also how to support each other when problems occur.
Studies have demonstrated that Roots of Empathy does indeed improve pupils’ behaviour and reduces aggression and bullying in schools. The programme is aimed at nurseries and schools until grade 8. The same baby usually accompanies a class during an entire school year, which means the same family visits the class about every two weeks. There are many ways to incorporate Roots of Empathy into the curriculum, and to link it directly to the experiences gained with the baby, this includes concentrating on subjects such as language, arts, social issues, environmental issues and even mathematics. Roots of Empathy is supported by the Canadian government and won the Ashoka Organisation’s international Changemakers Award, which is awarded to new social movements and enterprises.