Roots of Empathy launched in Nova Scotia in 2003-2004.
Read this Our Children Magazine article from Halifax. It beautifully describes a Roots of Empathy program and shares stories that show how the program is helping the students, the teachers, and the volunteer family – Baby Tessa and Mom Allison.
97% of teachers in Nova Scotia with Roots of Empathy programs in their classrooms strongly agreed or agreed that as a result of the program, students are more empathic to one another.
97% of teachers in Nova Scotia with Roots of Empathy programs in their classrooms strongly agreed or agreed that as a result of the program, students are more able to understand other people’s points of view.
We offer our programs in French and English and to Indigenous communities.
In the report “Respectful and Responsible Relationships: There’s No App for That,” the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying states, “School personnel also must develop enhanced competencies in mental health literacy, suicide prevention and forms of learning that promote empathy and positive relationships. Programs under the umbrella of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and specific programs like Roots of Empathy would be two examples.”
Roots of Empathy programs in Nova Scotia are supported by the provincial government of Nova Scotia as well as regional agencies and community funders.
Nova Scotia Children’s Art
Grade 2 Student, Sydney, Nova Scotia (2021)
I was feeling “sad because I didn’t get to see my cousins for a year!”
Speech bubble: “me and my sis”; “my cousins”
“The Roots of Empathy Recovery Program gave children the opportunity to speak about what happened to them and how they felt about it. Although only 7 years old, this little girl was able to identify that she was feeling sad because she missed her cousins. In the program, children identify their own feelings, and by hearing their classmates share their feelings, they realize that they are not alone. It is easier to make friends when you know that you share similar feelings. This is all mental health and resilience promotion.” – Founder/President Mary Gordon
Grade 2 Student, Maryvale, Nova Scotia (2021)
I helped someone who was feeling “sad.”
Speech Bubble: “Are you okay?”
“Democracies develop in classrooms, not in boardrooms or war-rooms. Children in Roots of Empathy classrooms are encouraged to find themselves in the ‘other.’ The empathy that results makes them advocate for their classmates. The empowerment of being able to help a classmate is reinforcing and makes the child a card-carrying citizen.” – Founder/President Mary Gordon
Grade 5 Student, Liverpool, Nova Scotia (2021)
To me bullying means “something that someone said or did and it doesn’t matter if they say sorry, because what they did was wrong.”
Bullying can look like…“you’re not stronger than me, you’re just FATTER!”
“The Roots of Empathy Recovery Program helped children articulate their experience of bullying and to be reassured that it was unjust and that they have every right to be upset. When children define what bullying is, adults have an opportunity to see it and take it seriously. Research from three continents have shown that Roots of Empathy reduces bullying and aggression, and this frees the children up to learn and to relate.” – Founder/President Mary Gordon
What Nova Scotia teachers and students say
“Roots of Empathy can teach things like being nice to each other and tips to help you get through tough times.”Grade 5 StudentSydney
“What can Roots of Empathy teach the world? To not make fun of people who are different.”Grade 2 StudentBridgetown
“Roots of Empathy can teach the world how to respect and take care of a child or other people. It’s about knowing what empathy means and how to give it.”Grade 6 StudentMiddleton Regional High School, Middleton
“That everybody is the same, if they have a disability, their race, their religion, their feelings, their personality, and just the way people are. They are living being just like you. This is how I think of the group. Just imagine the whole world is a tree, and everybody is a root. When everybody does something kind, a leaf forms. The roots are helping people with empathy in every human. Just be yourself!”Grade 3 StudentSackville Heights Elementary School, Middle Sackville
“I believe it teaches the children to be in more touch with their own feelings, to those of others and generally more empathetic towards each other. It teaches acceptance to be different, which in this day in age is essential.”Grade 5/6 TeacherDuncan MacMillan, Sheet Harbour
“Roots of Empathy helps children better understand their role as human beings in a society. The program helps them understand how the brain works and how empathy not only makes the world a better place, it helps them find inner peace.”Grade 4 InstructorÉcole Beaubassin, Halifax
“When [the students] saw me out in the community apart from the program, their faces would light up and they would come over and tell their parents, sibling, or friend all about their baby. It was truly amazing and so wonderful to see how much they cared about my son and his well-being and development. The program also brought the children closer together as a class/community, I found. They were like one big family with their baby at the centre ... I have to say that I was especially surprised how much the boys in the classroom loved the baby and how much they wished to cuddle and hold him as it broke with the possible gender stereotype that girls are more attentive to babies. That was not the case in our classroom which I loved!”Volunteer ParentWindsor Elementary School, Windsor