2012-13 will see the first ever German-language programs piloted in Bremen, Germany.
Students participating in a Roots of Empathy program.
"We recognize a decreasing capacity for the development of empathy, and we thank Mary Gordon for creating this innovative program to raise social/emotional competencies, including empathy. We are delighted to be one of the first three schools in Germany to introduce Roots of Empathy to our pupils, and look forward to its positive effects."
- Thomas Bendlin, Director,
Oberschule an der Helgolander Straße
- Roots of Empathy is excited to launch its first-ever German language programs with a pilot in Bremen, Germany this 2012-13 academic season. Thanks to initial support for this initiative from API Children and Youth Foundation, an estimated 200 children will participate in the year-long, classroom-based program in schools across the city. These programs will also represent the organization’s expansion to continental Europe, after several years within the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland.
- German students excitedly welcomed their Roots of Empathy ‘tiny teacher’ in a report aired on RadioBremen TV. Having gathered around the green blanket with their ‘tiny teacher’ four times, the Grade 5 students are already expressing their feelings in new ways. Bremen is the first city in Germany to pilot the Roots of Empathy program, but awareness is quickly growing as several other German provinces have expressed an interest in bringing the program to their schools.
The Roots of Empathy Program
Established in 1996, Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program that has shown significant effect in reducing levels of aggression among school children while raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand how another person feels.
“We are born with the capacity for empathy. An ability to recognize emotions transcends race, culture, nationality, class, gender, and age.”
- Mary Gordon, Founder/President, Roots of Empathy
The Roots of Empathy program reaches elementary school children in New Zealand, the United States, the Isle of Man, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. It is now coming to Germany. It will be introduced in Bremen schools in the fall of 2012. Research results from national and international evaluations of Roots of Empathy indicate significant reductions in aggression and increases in prosocial behaviour.
Roots of Empathy's mission is to build caring, peaceful, and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults. The focus of Roots of Empathy in the long term is to build capacity of the next generation for responsible citizenship and responsive parenting. In the short term, Roots of Empathy focuses on raising levels of empathy, resulting in more respectful and caring relationships and reduced levels of bullying and aggression.
How does the Roots of Empathy program work?
At the heart of the program are a neighbourhood infant and parent who visit a classroom nine times, part of the 27 visits included in the program over the course of a school year. A trained Roots of Empathy Instructor follows a specialized curriculum to coach students to observe the baby's development and to label the baby's feelings. The Instructor also visits before and after each family visit to reinforce teachings. In this experiential learning, the baby is the "Teacher" and a lever, which the instructor uses to help children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others.
This "emotional literacy" taught in the program lays the foundation for more safe and caring classrooms, where children are the "Changers." They are more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy) and are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically and emotionally hurt each other through bullying and other cruelties. In the Roots of Empathy program children learn how to challenge cruelty and injustice.
As part of this Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) program, children develop emotional literacy and learn to regulate their emotions. Research has shown that children who increase their social and emotional learning also increase their academic performance.
The cognitive aspect of empathy is perspective taking and the affective aspect is emotion. Roots of Empathy educates both the mind and the heart.
The A.P.I Children and Youth Foundation is dedicated to supporting socially disadvantaged children and youth in Germany. The family foundation does this by promoting pedagogical interventions that allow the next generation to grow up as healthy and contributing members of their communities. As a funding organization based in Hamburg, the foundation focuses its giving on organizational/program start-up, providing time, knowledge, money and networking opportunities. A.P.I. Children and Youth Foundation has been supporting the adaptation and implementation of the Roots of Empathy program in Germany since 2010.
All inquiries about expansion to new areas in Germany are coordinated through the International Office in Toronto, Canada. Review the Expansion document and the FAQs, and then contact