Saskatoon

Babies become teachers in Saskatoon schools

Babies are normally the ones learning from older children, but in this case, the infants are the instructors.

Roots of Empathy brings babies into classrooms to teach students

Melissa Ledoux and her 10-month-old son, Kaleb, participate in the Roots of Empathy program. (Jill Smith/CBC)

Babies are normally the ones learning from older children, but in this case, the infants are the instructors.

The Roots of Empathy program brings babies into classrooms to help children become more empathetic.

The program celebrated its second year in Saskatchewan today with an event at Vincent Massey School. There were 12 of the tiny teachers in attendance. The babies, which the program calls the "world's youngest teachers," have helped teach over 300 students at five Saskatoon elementary schools in the past 10 months.

The parents bring the infants into the classrooms once per month over an eight-month period. The students label the baby's feelings and observe their developments over that time period. The program's mission is to "build caring, peaceful, and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults."

Everyone is a teacher

Melissa Ledoux and her 10-month-old son, Kaleb, participated in the program. She said it was fun watching the students' reactions to her son's development and watching them learn how to care for him.

"There was one incident when he got really upset and the kids were pretty upset for him," she said. "When he started crying, they were really upset and concerned for his care and it just made me feel like the program is working. They were understanding feelings and how to care for someone else other than themselves."

Though, it wasn't only her son and the students who were learning. When the first-time mother began the program she didn't want the students touching Kaleb. 

"I gained confidence in the students themselves," she said, adding that by the end of the program she wasn't worried.

Roots of Empathy began in Toronto in 1996 and became a not-for-profit organization in 2000. The program is offered across Canada in French and English and is being delivered in New Zealand, the United States and the Isle of Man.

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