In 30 classrooms in Lane County, babies are the teachers.
These are the classrooms currently part of Roots of Empathy - an innovative, evidence-based program that combines both long- and short-term goals to work toward building caring, peaceful, and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults. Through interactions with a neighborhood baby and parent who visit the classroom every three weeks during the school year, children learn - with the help of a trained Roots of Empathy Instructor - to to observe the baby’s development and to label the baby’s feelings. The Instructor, who also visits the classroom before and after each family visit, uses the children's experiences with the baby to help them identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others.
Independent evaluations of Roots of Empathy have shown a decrease in acts of aggression of participants, and an increase in social and emotional knowledge, prosocial behavior, understanding of infants and parenting, and perception of the classroom as a caring environment. The potential of the program to change the world child by child - and to create "a society of compassionate and caring children who will pass on their legacy of empathy to their own children" - makes Roots of Empathy a natural fit for 90by30. In 2017, we brought Roots of Empathy founder and president Mary Gordon to our conference as they keynote speaker. In Fall 2018, Roots of Empathy became the second flagship strategy, following the Welcome Baby Box, to debut in Lane County. By the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, the program had expanded to in classrooms in all seven of our regions.