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Newborns to Teach Kindness in New Zealand Schools

Newborns to Teach Kindness in New Zealand Schools

The Peace Foundation wants to bring to New Zealand the quietly revolutionary ‘Roots of Empathy’.

Developed in Canada, Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom programme that has shown dramatic effects in reducing levels of aggression and violence among schoolchildren while increasing empathy.

“Empathy is absolutely crucial to respectful, non-violent relationships” says Marion Hancock, Director of the Peace Foundation. “Levels of aggression occur in directly inverse proportion to levels of empathy. Psychopaths have zero empathy. We do not hurt people when we can put ‘ourselves in their shoes’ and imagine how they’d be feeling.”

Mary Gordon, Founder and Director of Roots of Empathy, will be in New Zealand this week (6 - 11 October) In order to obtain the necessary support for a three year pilot programme facilitated by the Peace Foundation.

At the heart of the Roots of Empathy programme is a neighbourhood infant and parent who visit the classroom once a month for the full school year.

During a typical visit, the baby, the parent and a certified Roots of Empathy Instructor, gather on a blanket on the classroom floor. Students sit around the blanket and are coached to observe the baby's development, celebrate milestones, interact with the baby and learn about an infant's needs and unique temperament.

Extensive research has been undertaken into the programme and demonstrates very positive results.

Levels of bullying in schools and violence in the home are major concerns in this country and The Peace Foundation is hopeful that Roots of Empathy can act as a 'circuit breaker' and make a significant contribution to combating both problems.

It is planned that the pilot will take place over three years, beginning in Auckland in 2006. A total of ten Year 3/4 primary classrooms should be participating from April 2006 and the pilot will be rigorously researched.

“Once children are of school age, the single most important thing that we can do to advance non-violent behaviour and effective parenting for the next generation is to foster the development of empathy” says Ms Gordon. “This is at the heart of our programme – that developing empathy, will build a caring society, classroom by classroom.”

ENDS

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