Roots of Empathy helps kids cope with violence, bullying

According to an article in Time magazine in 2011, children are becoming more aggressive, both verbally and physically.

With the use of technology on rising and the increased popularity of the Internet, children are exposed to a more violent world.

But some people are trying to change things.

Roots of Empathy is an international, school-based organization whose goal is to build a caring, peaceful society through the development of empathy in children and adults.

The organization targets children in middle school to help give them another perspective on situations they may face growing up.

“Each year I see impact with certain students and with the classroom teachers themselves,” said Kristy Packwood, a senior mentor for Roots of Empathy in Calgary.

“Students tend to come away from the program with a (better) understanding of emotions, how to recognize these emotions in themselves and others and how to respond to these emotions,” she said.

Second-year SAIT journalism student Krista Conrad got involved with the program along with her seven-month-old baby Hannah.

Having a baby in the class helps bring a real perspective to the message being taught.

“I think Hannah has brought out the best in the kids. When we’re in the classroom, they become calmer, more gentle,” said Conrad in an interview.

“It’s funny, when I’m standing outside their classroom waiting to go in, they all act like regular 10-year-olds. They’re rambunctious, talking loudly, goofing around.

“But when we walk into that classroom, a sense of reverence comes over them and they all mature beyond their years,” Conrad said.

With the amount of violence on television and in movies and video games that children are exposed to daily, it’s amazing to see the impact a small child can have.

Roots of Empathy has done a lot of research in the last 10 years, and according to its website, 85 per cent of school bullying episodes involve onlookers and bystanders.

Each year I see impact with certain students and with the classroom teachers themselves. – Kristy Packwood

Bullying and aggression experienced by children is a major problem. The aggression in schools can lead to negative learning and create problems for the children.

“I believe she (Hannah) has been helping them to think about others and develop a sense of empathy,” said Conrad.

“The kids enjoy watching her learn and grow, and they are in awe of her development and how she changes from one visit to the next.

“I can’t wait to see how the next few months go, and how Hannah and our Grade 5 kids change between now and the end of June.”

Visit the Roots of Empathy website for more information about their program.

About Kevin Gritton 2 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Kevin Gritton is working as a reporter for The Press during the 2014-2015 academic year.