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Successful Roots Of Empathy Program Expands To First Nations Communities

by NationTalk on November 13, 2008849 Views

Manitoba News Release

November 13, 2008

A successful Manitoba program that teaches children about compassion, inclusion and social awareness is expanding into more schools serving First Nations students with a new $150,000 provincial investment, Healthy Living Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross announced today.”Experiences and lessons learned in childhood shape who we become as we grow older, which is why the Roots of Empathy program is such a groundbreaking and important program for Manitoba,” said Irvin-Ross. “We’re extremely excited to connect with First Nations communities to support their commitment to classrooms and schools built on a culture of empathy and understanding.”

The Roots of Empathy program helps children and youth gain a better understanding of the feelings and situations of others, resulting in more peaceful classrooms with less aggression and bullying, the minister said.

Eighty-six new instructors will be leading nearly 1,900 new students in the Roots of Empathy program across Manitoba. This year, a total of about 4,500 students will participate. Growth into 26 new First Nation communities is moving forward with the assistance and support of the Manitoba First Nation Education Resource Centre.

“Roots of Empathy adds to a positive school environment that encourages learning and sharing,” said Education, Citizenship and Youth Minister Peter Bjornson. “We want children to know that school isn’t just numbers and facts. It’s also the place where we learn to understand and accept the feelings and situations of other people.”

The new funding will support new schools that have asked to bring the Roots of Empathy program into their classrooms, many of which have a significant number of First Nations students or are located in Aboriginal communities.

“First Nations traditional values include respect for all things on this earth, the land, the animals and, of course, the people,” said Ron Evans, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. “The Roots of Empathy program has been successful with our children.”

This summer, the Assembly of First Nations passed a unanimous resolution supporting the Roots of Empathy program. The program’s focus is consistent with traditional First Nations teachings.

Children from kindergarten to Grade 8 build their empathy skills by interacting with a neighbourhood infant and parent who visit the classroom once a month throughout the school year. Trained instructors deliver the program curriculum before and after the family visit to build on the students’ experiences with the infant.

Since Roots of Empathy was launched in Manitoba as a pilot project in 2001, it has expanded every year because of demand and positive results. Reports from parents, teachers and students show decreased physical aggression and improved social skills for participating students immediately after the program finishes and up to three years later. School divisions across Manitoba participate in the program.

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