Roots of Empathy in Germany
Launched in 2012-2013, Roots of Empathy has already reached almost 750 children in 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
||Students observing their ‘Tiny Teacher’ during a family visit. Footage courtesy of Radio Bremen.
- Roots of Empathy launched its first-ever German language programs with a pilot in Bremen, Germany, during the 2012-13 academic season.
- The expansion of programs to Germany marks the introduction of Roots of Empathy to continental Europe.
- 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 was 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 and emotional competence and increasing empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand how another person feels.
“We are born with the capacity for empathy. The 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 schoolchildren on worldwide, including students in Canada, the United States, New Zealand, England, and now Germany. 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 the classroom regularly over the course of the school year. A trained Roots of Empathy Instructor coaches students to observe the baby's development and to label the baby's feelings. Using a specialized curriculum, 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 that the Instructor uses to teach the children emotional literacy, the ability to identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others.
Emotional literacy lays the foundation for more safe and caring classrooms where children are catalysts for change. 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.
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 API 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.