The earlier we help our little ones with recognizing their feeling as well as others is the best way to instill this practice. They will carry this throughout their life time. They will learn to stop aggression and develop self-control. Empathy should be practiced in all schools and programs right along with Health, Literacy, and Culture.”
- Seeds of Empathy Centre, Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada
Imagine an Early Childhood setting. There is a hush of expectation in the room as the children gather around a lavender blanket in anticipation of Baby Jack's arrival. Their eyes light up as Jack, just four months old, and his Mom appear in the doorway. This is his second visit and he is wriggling with excitement.
Without prompting, the children break out into a welcoming song: "Hello, Baby Jack, how are you? How are you? How are you? Hello, Baby Jack, how are you? How are you today?" Jack and his mother walk around the lavender blanket greeting each child in turn. Mom sits down and places Jack on his back; the children wait eagerly to see what he will do.
At the heart of the program are a neighbourhood infant and parent who visit the centre every three weeks over the program year. A trained Family Guide coaches children to observe the baby's development and to label the baby's feelings. In this experiential learning, the baby is the "Teacher" and a lever, which the Family Guide uses to help children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others. This "emotional literacy" taught in the program lays the foundation for more safe and caring Centres, where children are the "Changers". They are more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy), and are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically and emotionally hurt each other through bullying and other unkind acts.
Now, imagine a small group of preschoolers sitting around a circular lavender blanket engrossed in a story.
In Seeds of Empathy, we use stories to help children explore their own feelings and take the perspective of others. Attitudes to reading are formed early through trusting relationships, which is what makes Early Childhood Educators powerful role models. In Seeds of Empathy, at least two trained Literacy Coaches facilitate these Literacy Circles, which are supported by curriculum and two books per Theme. Through the curriculum the books and Family Visits are connected by Theme.
In addition to the initial three days of training, Seeds of Empathy offers a series of professional development workshops for Centre staff. These workshops start the year after the staff have taken the Seeds of Empathy initial training.
Building on the power of the relationship the Early Childhood Educator has with the children enriches the understanding of how to use this vehicle for learning in a joyful way while expanding their knowledge base and repertoire of skills.
I have seen first-hand changes in the children; using words, caring for others, showing empathy, reading and enjoying books and the literature.”
- Seeds of Empathy Centre, Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Canada