Empathy lessons from tots

Briar Hancox, 9, of Pinehill School in Albany, with 13-month-old Zoe Wilson of Sunnynook at the celebration. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Briar Hancox, 9, of Pinehill School in Albany, with 13-month-old Zoe Wilson of Sunnynook at the celebration. Photo / Jason Oxenham

About 30 of Auckland's youngest teachers have celebrated the end of their first year's work.

They started in February, mostly aged between 2 and 4 months, and have visited classes monthly through Barnardos' "Roots of Empathy" programme to teach primary school children to understand how other people are feeling.

"We are constantly asking the children, 'How is the baby feeling?"' says programme manager Michelle Block.

"What is the non-verbal expression that the baby gives you? How do you think the baby looked when she came in with her mum this morning? Do you think she was worried about coming into a new situation? Do you feel worried or anxious when you are in new situations?

"The children get to know that they respond to the same situation differently. It's understanding how someone else feels."

The volunteer instructors encourage the children to ask other children how they feel, and to play with them if they feel unhappy or left out.

"There are so many lovely instances where I have talked to students who have been feeling isolated or excluded who have been asked to play with someone at lunchtime, or invited to someone's home, or invited to a birthday party," Mrs Block said.

The programme started in Canada in 1996 and is funded by the Social Development Ministry in 31 schools in Auckland, 19 in Wellington and nine in Christchurch. Barnardos also uses charitable funding to run it in seven schools in Rotorua and two in Nelson.

For more information look here.

- NZ Herald

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