Roots of Empathy was launched in Manitoba as a pilot project in 2001. Positive outcomes resulted in the government of Manitoba offering the program province-wide to public, band-operated and private schools. In the ensuing 20 years, Roots of Empathy has reached 100,000 students.
In 2020, there were 350 classrooms of students in 32 out of 37 School Divisions across the Province participating in the program. Participation was equitable and accessible to any and all School Divisions in the province. In 2021, the Province of Manitoba, through the Manitoba Department of Education, supported the Roots of Empathy Recovery Program.
Since 2000, the Roots of Empathy program has been evaluated by independent researchers through comparative and randomized controlled studies designed to measure the impact of the program on children’s behaviour and social wellbeing. This research has been conducted in numerous countries across three continents.
Research has found that children in the Roots of Empathy program experience:
- An increase in prosocial behaviours (E.g., sharing, helping and including)
- An increase in empathy
- A decrease in aggressive behaviours, including bullying
Specifically, Santos et al (2011) conducted a longitudinal randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the Roots of Empathy program in schools across Manitoba, Canada. This study assessed children in kindergarten, grade 4, grade 8 and compared children participating in the Roots of Empathy program to children not participating in the Roots of Empathy program.
Results of the study found that children in the Roots of Empathy program experienced:
- A decrease in aggression in children, both immediately and three-years after program completion
- An increase in prosocial behaviours (E.g., sharing, helping, including) in children immediately following the program
What Manitoba Teachers and Students Say
When asked, “What can Roots of Empathy teach the world?” this was a student’s response: “How to treat other people with respect and how to respect yourself more how you can understand people better and can help you be a more caring person.”
Manitoba Grade 5 Student
When asked about the impact of the program, teachers offered comments such as: “The program was extremely important for the social and emotional development of our students which was greatly required for them to grow as children and learners. The backgrounds of our students are that of trauma and loss. They learned that there is hope in a new life and that we need to cherish everyone and accept that everyone is different and something to offer.”
Manitoba Multi-Age EAL Classroom Teacher
When asked about the impact of the program, Roots of Empathy volunteer parents offered comments such as: “It’s one thing to explain empathy. But for a child to see a real living breathing little being. To see them grow and develop, to see the most vulnerable being- a baby, grow and learn and bond with them is such an important lesson for everyone. To think beyond yourself and see that other’s think and need differently. That is invaluable.”
Manitoba Volunteer Parent in a Grade 6/7 Class
When asked about the impact of the program, Roots of Empathy Instructors offered comments such as: “The children seemed more calm, more understanding of each others’ differences, and were not as quick to judge others.”
Manitoba Grade 6 Instructor