Volunteers teach empathy to elementary school children

Established in 1996, Roots of Empathy is an award-winning classroom program that has shown dramatic effect in reducing levels of aggression among school children. The program raises social and emotional competence and increases empathy.

The program’s mission is to build caring, peaceful citizens through the development of empathy in children in elementary schools.

To deliver this program in the school system, instructors from the community are certified through a Roots of Empathy training program.

Instructors plan and deliver 27 lessons in an assigned classroom and work closely with participating volunteer families.

Instructors come from diverse backgrounds. Having classroom experience and knowledge of infant development are a major asset, but not necessary.

At the heart of the program is a mom and baby who visit the classroom nine times over the school year on a family visit. The Roots of Empathy instructor coaches students to observe the baby’s development and to label the baby’s feelings.

In this experiential learning the baby is the “teacher.”

The instructor uses the baby’s behaviour to help children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of other people.

To obtain certification, all instructors receive four days of training. They follow a well-designed set of lessons (30 minutes in length) and come into the classroom three times a month (pre-family visit, family visit and post-family visit) for a total of 27 lessons.

All instructors have mentors who guide and coach them in best practice strategies.

The training will take place in Kelowna Aug. 28 to 30.

If you are interested in learning more or taking part, please contact Colleen Edstrom at 250-491-7460 or

The Roots of Empathy program also needs moms to volunteer with their babies. Babies must be two to four months as of Oct. 1, 2012.

Does this type of volunteering appeals to you? Customize your volunteer profile to include options from the education section. Go to, Volunteer Opportunities Search Central Okanagan.

View all the Volunteer Centre columns at:

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