The Roots of Empathy programme started in St Oliver's in the Autumn, of 2016. This Canadian programme was set up and funded in Killarney by the Stephen Lyne Foundation. Barnardos Children's Charity oversees Roots of Empathy in Ireland and facilitates the training of instructors. The programme ran across each of our Third Classes. This involves one baby, parent and instructor per class. The children learn emotional literacy over 27 lessons. There are nine themes in Roots of Empathy.
- Meeting the Baby
- Caring & Planning for Baby
- Who am I?
- Goodbye and Good Wishes
Every third lesson the baby and parent visit the class for a Family Visit Lesson. By observing a secure attachment relationship between baby and parent children see a model of empathy. The baby and their relationship with their parent then act as a vehicle to introduce the language of emotional literacy. There is extensive research showing that children who participate in the programme show an increase in empathy, an increase in prosocial behaviours e.g. sharing, helping and including and a decrease in aggressive behaviours including bullying.
With school building closures in March 2020, our programmes came to an abrupt finish. We have restarted Roots of Empathy this school year in Ms Neasa's Junior Infants and hope to have it running across three classes at one level once again in the 2023/2024 school year. This year is the first that one of our original Roots of Empathy babies has started Junior Infants with us in St Oliver's. Sarah O'Grady in Junior Infants was once the Tiny Teacher to Ms Claire O'Mahony's Third Class with her mom Christine and Instructor Ms Catherine Hickey. Sarah is now experiencing the Roots of Empathy programme as a student with Baby Josh and his mom Aoife. We are very grateful to the thirteen families who have volunteered to work with us over the years. The programme generally begins in October/November. Babies have to be 2-4 months old at the start as the lessons follow their developmental progress. Please contact the school office if you are interested in participating with your baby later in the year.