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Sagkeeng First Nation Celebrates the Roots of Empathy Program

Year End Baby Celebration

By: Roots of Empathy Instructors:  Kim O’Laney, Sharon Palamer and Marilyn Courchene

The Roots of Empathy Program is an evidence-based classroom program which has shown dramatic effect in reducing levels of aggression and violence among schoolchildren while raising social emotional competence and increasing empathy.

Roots of Empathy was created by Founder/President Mary Gordon in 1996 and became a registered charity in October of 2000 with a mandate to expand across Canada and internationally. The program reaches elementary school children from Kindergarten to Grade 8 in English and French in rural, urban, and suburban communities and in Aboriginal communities both on and off-reserve.

The focus of Roots of Empathy in the long term is to build the capacity of the next generation for caring and compassionate citizenship and parenting. In the short term, the program focuses on raising levels of empathy, resulting in more respectful and caring relationships and reduced levels of bullying and aggression.

The Goals of The Program Are:

To foster the development of empathy

  • To develop emotional literacy
  • To reduce levels of bullying, aggression and violence, and promote children’s pro-social behaviours
  •  To increase knowledge of human development, learning, and infant safety
  • To prepare students for responsible citizenship and responsive parenting

The Roots of Empathy Instructors from Sagkeeng Consolidated School from Sagkeeng First Nation went into the Kindergarten classroom over the course of the school year.  The centerpiece of each theme is a visit from the Roots of Empathy family.  This year the Roots of Empathy Program had four generations take part in the program. The classroom teacher was also the grandmother of Baby William.  On family visits the great-grandmother was also a part of the visits.

The Sagkeeng Roots of Empathy Instructors follow the Roots of Empathy curriculum and lesson plans that included topics such as crying, sleep and safety. Every student was positively engaged through each family visit.

Roots of Empathy had four generations in the classroom.  Susan Swampy, the kindergarten teacher was also the grandmother of Baby William.  Susan noted that Baby William came to the classroom on another occasion and he was so excited that he thought he was coming for a Roots of Empathy Family visit.

Andrea, the Roots of Empathy mother said that “Sometimes the kids in the classroom would come over to the house and visit William’s sister who happened to be in the Kindergarten classroom and they would end up playing with Baby William instead.”

She also noted, “We live next to the store and if I am outside the kids would make sure they come and say hi.  Andrea also said, “My Kookum always likes to join us when we have a family visit.  She enjoys interacting with her great-grandchild in the classroom.  She always comes to see Baby William.”

The baby celebration had wishes for Baby William.  The classroom students wish Baby William:

  • To have lots of food
  • To read
  • To write his name
  • To ride a bike
  • To have good water
  • To have a quad
  • To ride in a car
  • To play with toys
  • To have a bike
  • To learn to drive a car
  • To be happy
  • To have stuff
  • To have a special blanket
  • To have lots of friends

The baby celebration theme ended with a birthday cake, juice and ice cream to celebrate all the of Baby William’s milestones.  The Sagkeeng Roots of Empathy Instructors, Marilyn Courchene, Kim O’Laney and Sharon Palamer presented gifts and certificates to the Roots of Empathy family, Mother Andrea and Baby William, classroom teacher (grandmother) for their participation to the program.