The “littlest teachers in the world” were thanked yesterday during an afternoon ceremony at Inglis Street Elementary School in Halifax.
The teachers, clad in identical white T-shirts, played with toys and crawled around on green blankets at the middle of the gym floor, as proud parents snapped photos.
It was a celebration for the babies who participated in the Roots of Empathy program during the 2008-09 year. The program brings babies into elementary and junior high school classes to teach students how to care for others.
“The core of the program is to teach them to be more empathic (and) to read the other person,” said Susan Venn, HRM regional coordinator for the program. “The baby teaches them to do that.”
Karen Keats was at the celebration with her 10-month-old daughter, Sophie Williams. She and Sophie visited a Grade 3 class at Duc d’Anville Elementary School in Clayton Park this past school year.
Sophie sat on her lap while she talked about her experiences with the program. They first entered the classroom when Sophie was six weeks old. While some of the students were a little standoffish at first, Keats said they all became enthralled with their tiny teacher throughout the year.
“The second-last time we were there they gave her a book of nursery rhymes and some kids made their own nursery rhymes about Sophie,” she said. “It was so beautiful.”
“I think for the students it really teaches them about caring for other people . . . (and) other people’s perspectives,” Keats said, adding the students also learn about child development.
The program has been spreading worldwide. It’s been established in New Zealand, the United States and the Isle of Man, according to the Roots of Empathy website.
Venn is hoping that it will continue to spread in Nova Scotia. “Now we’ve blossomed and we’re going to blossom in the Valley and the South Shore too,” she said. “Hopefully (it will spread) everywhere.”