Roots of Empathy Baby Celebration
Wednesday 28th November
WHAT A celebration honouring Roots of Empathy babies, the world’s youngest teachers. Under the management of the
Peace Foundation, for the past 10 months, these one-year-olds have worked with some 250 local children by “teaching” an
innovative classroom programme to reduce violence and build empathy and social/emotional literacy. These students have
also acquired understanding and skills to enable them to know what it is to be a good parent, thus offering the
opportunity to break the cycle of intergenerational violence.
Author Mary Gordon, award-winning Founder/President of Roots of Empathy, will be helping to celebrate this very special
WHERE Auckland City Council Chambers
Town Hall, Queen Street, Auckland.
WHEN Wednesday ,November 28th. 10:30am – 12:30pm
SPEAKERS • Roots of Empathy Founder/President Mary Gordon
• Her Excellency Susan Satyanand
• Dr. Cindy Kiro, Children’s Commissioner
• Dr. Rajen Prasad, Chief Families Commissioner
• Students from participating schools
• 10 babies: the “teachers” of the Roots of Empathy programme, and their dedicated parents who volunteer their
What is Roots of Empathy?
Roots of Empathy (Puna Atawahai) is an evidence-based classroom programme that reduces levels of aggression while
raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy.
Roots of Empathy was created in Toronto in 1996 by Mary Gordon. Since its inception, the programme has reached more than
150,000 children in more than 6,000 classrooms across Canada and in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.
How did Roots of Empathy come to New Zealand?
A three year trial, organised and managed by the Peace Foundation, got underway in Auckland in March of this year. By
the end of 2009 it will have affected the lives of the Year 5 and 6 students in 100 classrooms in Auckland, Wellington
and a South Island centre.
In this country Roots of Empathy is being funded by three government ministries – Education, Health and Social
Development – as well as a number of philanthropic trusts. The programme has received the keen support of Dr. Cindy
Kiro, Commissioner for Children; Dr. Rajen Prasad, Chief Families Commissioner; Barnardos; Brainwave Trust: and many
other individuals and organisations concerned with children’s well-being.
How does the program work?
A trained Roots of Empathy instructor visits the classroom every week during the school year. Once every three weeks, a
parent and baby from the community come to the classroom with the instructor for a Family Visit.
In Roots of Empathy, the baby is the teacher. By understanding the perspective of the baby and learning to label the
baby’s feelings, the students become literate in describing their own feelings and understanding those of others.
What does research show?
Several independent research projects on Roots of Empathy have demonstrated the effectiveness of the programme. Research
from several Canadian cities and in Australia has shown a significant decrease in aggression and an increase in
prosocial behaviour among children who experienced the programme, compared to children not in the programme. Research is
now under way in New Zealand.
A three-year follow-up study found that the significant reduction in aggression and other improvements in behaviours in
Roots of Empathy children were maintained three years after the programme ended.
About Mary Gordon
Founder/President Mary Gordon is recognized internationally as an educator, child advocate and parenting expert. Ms.
Gordon is the author of the Canadian bestseller, Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child, published in 2005.
She is an Ashoka Fellow and Member of the Order of Canada.