- BC Games
Time for babies to go to school
Last year at this time, for the first time in my life, I barely noticed that it was “back to school” season. I was consumed by anticipation around the birth of my first child, and following his arrival, consumed by the monumental challenge of caring for such a small, helpless being. No doubt parents of babies born in August or early September, or awaiting the arrival of their children later in the month feel much the same way.
However, a special opportunity awaits little ones born this time of year: the chance to enter the classrooms at BICS as part of the Roots of Empathy (ROE) program.
I thought my son, Shah, born on September 8 last year, was too young to participate but I put his name in to be a ROE baby just in case. In October, I got a call asking if I was still interested in participating. Three weeks later, he made his first appearance in Mrs. Ballou’s Grade 3 class.
The idea behind Roots of Empathy is that by observing a baby and by discussions surrounding those observations, kids can learn vocabulary to describe and understand emotions. Hopefully this kind of learning will help them navigate relationships with their peers in healthier, more empathetic ways.
I cannot speak to the results of the studies on Roots of Empathy and its successes, or whether they will prove true on Mrs. Ballou’s Grade 3 class, but I can say for sure that over the course of nine monthly visits, one thing stood out for me: little kids are good for big kids, and big kids are good for little kids.The Grade 3 students responded to Shah with an immediate sense of nurturing and responsibility. They fixated on rules about having clean hands to prevent the spread of germs, and looked for any opportunity to help him out. I would say that each and every one of them “stepped-up” to the challenge of caring for a human being more helpless and vulnerable than themselves.
Even at two months old, Shah lit up under their gaze. I am sure that the experience of being the centre of their attention so early has something to do with his current abilities to work a crowd. At the end of the school year, Mrs. Ballou’s class gave Shah (among other things) a soccer ball. They chose that gift because they’re hoping he becomes a soccer player when he’s older, and one of them might end up as his coach.
By participating in Roots of Empathy, Shah started to build his own community. The kids who watched him grow over the course of the school year continue to interact with him: on the ferry, on the playground, at Bowfest or wherever else they happen to see him. They are too young for “babysitting,” but these kids prove themselves capable of being fantastic nurturers at each encounter.
I hope that in a few years time, Shah gets the chance to participate a second time in Roots of Empathy. Hopefully he’ll learn, like the kids in Mrs. Ballou’s class, that he has the power to make a big difference in a little person’s life.
The Bowen Island Community School is looking for parent volunteers with two to four months old babies to participate in the Roots of Empathy program.
Interested parents are to please contact Community School Coordinator, Sarah Haxby, at 604-947-0389 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
special to the Undercurrent