The Roots of Empathy Program offers a unique learning experience for local students.

Roots of Empathy is an evidence based program which helps reduce levels of aggression and bullying by teaching youth how it feels to be in someone else's shoes.

Brenda Dennis, Family Community Support Services, Volunteer Services and Community Programmer, says the program is carried out in a classroom setting.

"This is done by a certified instructor who goes into a classroom 27 times during the year. There are 9 themes and each theme there is three visits to the classroom by the Roots of Empathy instructor, a pre-visit, a family visit, and a post visit."

During the family visit Dennis says the children in the program are introduced to the real teachers- a baby and it's parent. Students learn by watching how the baby reacts and interacts with the mom.

Dennis say the program promotes social inclusion.

"When you learn empathy you learn to be able to put yourself in another person's shoes, so it really broadens your outlook on seeing other people for who they are and appreciating their gifts."

Carey Wilkinson Lee is an instructor with Roots of Empathy and says one of the interesting parts of the program is learning to understand your temperament in comparison to someone else.

"It's a fantastic part of the Roots of Empathy program because we are all born with certain temperaments and to realize which temperament you are born with- it's not all good or bad, or right or wrong, we're all fantastic."

Wilkinson Lee feels that when children accept their own traits they develop less mental health issues as they grow.

"If we can understand at a young age how our brain works and who we are , and that we're born a certain way, I think it would take away some of the anxiety we have."

The international program originated in 1996 by Mary Gordon, and has been in Cochrane for the past three years. So far, three schools in Cochrane teach Roots of Empathy and Dennis is hoping to see the program expand to every school.

"My experience is that were starting and it just naturally grows, principals want the program in the school but it is a commitment to be an instructor, it's a commitment of four days of intensive training to become certified."

FCSS pays for the training but does ask for a two year commitment.

"Good qualities to have to be a Roots of Empathy instructor is your love of children, comfortable to be in a classroom setting, comfortable to be able to direct a class. As an instructor during that 30 minutes in the classroom, that class is yours, the teacher is present in the classroom but you're the one that is teaching at that moment."

Dennis shares they are currently looking for Roots of Empathy instructors and Roots of Empathy families (baby 2-4 months old in October). If interested drop Dennis a line at