One of the areas MFNERC does a lot of work in is Early Childhood Education. And two of our programs are Roots of Empathy and Seeds of Empathy.
At the heart of both programs is a neighbourhood infant and his/her parent who engages students in their classroom.
“Over the school year, a trained Roots of Empathy (K-Grade 4) or Seeds of Empathy (3-5 year olds) Instructor guides the children as they observe the relationship between baby and parent, understanding the baby’s intentions and emotions. Through this model of experiential learning, the baby is the “Teacher” and a catalyst, helping children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others.” (from www.rootsofempathy.org).
MFNERC has seen much success with these programs in our First Nations schools and pre-schools. And part of the program allows the Roots of Empathy and Seeds of Empathy Instructors to come together and network, learn, share ideas and bring those ideas back to their communities.
This week, our Seeds of Empathy instructors met in Winnipeg for a “Safe, Snug Moss Babies” workshop. (This was the same workshop our Roots of Empathy Instructors took part in on Jan. 24). Over 70 early child educators, child care workers, nursery and pre-school teachers from as far away as Split Lake and Nelson House took part. Guest speaker Sherryl Whitehawk from Yorkton, SK, led the day with powerful teachings about traditional parenting, and the sacred gifts of children – Sight, Smell, Taste and Hearing. “Traditionally, mothers carried girl babies over their shoulders and boy babies on their backs in order to develop these gifts,” taught Whitehawk. Then the afternoon was dedicated to the hands-on activity of making small moss bags.
One of the most prevalent sounds during the day was laughter. Women, and a few gentleman, helped each other around ribbon and cloth-filled tables and sewing machines, and it was a striking reminder about the importance of community when it comes to raising children. At the end of the day, everyone took part in a sharing circle where they could display their completed moss bag (and baby!) and talk about what they had learned.
In the true spirit of the day, one of the young, male participants exclaimed he was excited to go back home and tell his wife that he “went to Winnipeg to learn how to make a baby.” And many others shared how prior to the day they weren’t familiar with the moss bag teachings and were very thankful for the knowledge.