Bringing Babies to the Classroom to Teach Empathy, Prevent Bullying [View all]
SEATTLE -- In Laurie Pearson's kindergarten classroom at Lake Forest Park Elementary, students stand at attention. Pearson knows the silence won't last long and that she needs to be quick with her instructions.
"Everyone must wash your hands," Pearson says, "because baby Claire will be here soon."
The 20 or so kindergartners are already well acquainted with Claire, a seven-month-old infant who visits the classroom regularly as part of the social and emotional learning program Roots of Empathy.
Roots of Empathy, first started in 1996 in Toronto and introduced into U.S. schools in 2007, aims to build more peaceful and caring societies by increasing the level of empathy in children. In the last six years, the program has spread to California, New York and other parts of Washington.
Some teachers at the school, including Pearson, say they were initially nervous about the safety of the babies in classrooms full of students.
"I thought they were crazy," Pearson said, "but it was just amazing to see the kids respond and light up."
Roots of Empathy instructor Marilyn Enloe visits the classroom 27 times over the course of the year and for nine of those visits baby Claire will be there as well with her mother, Jenny Fitzpatrick. It's Enloe's job to help students observe the baby's development and to label Claire's feelings.