Monday, November 7, 2011

seeds of empathy

The Y’s Care Program of ywca clark county is pleased to announce the implementation of an innovative new curriculum that will help give children the skills they need to create a better future for themselves and their community. Seeds of Empathy addresses critical thinking, problem solving, bullying behavior and respect at a young age. An interest in pursuing this program arose from the media’s repeated attention to bullying and how it’s been affecting our society.

While researching bullying and it’s relationship to early childhood development, Leah Reitz, director of Y’s Care found references to a program called Seeds of Empathy that combats aggressive behavior and bullying by teaching empathy to children an early age. Bullying behavior has shown to have detrimental effects on the bullied including poor grades, passive-aggressive behavior, avoidance of social interaction and sometimes even suicide. Bullies learn behavior from their environment, whether that be at home, on TV or on the playground. Bully behavior, which is perpetuated by both adults and children is often either concealed from, or not recognized, by those in charge. Bullying is a complex topic that is woven into our society, and because of this dynamic, it’s essential that future generations be taught empathy at a young age.

Leah researched the program further and decided it would be a good fit for Y’s Care. Not only is Seeds of Empathy designed to decrease the likelihood of bullying behavior, but it also teaches respect, critical thinking and problem solving. These valuable lessons align perfectly with Y’s Care’s interest in making a positive impact in the community through high-quality education to children and families of homeless, transitioning, or low-income circumstances. After submitting an application to Seeds of Empathy this summer, Y’s Care was awarded the opportunity to be the second in the nation to practice this revolutionary curriculum.

Seeds of Empathy was introduced in Alberta Canada in 2008. Since that time, the program has reached over 325,000 children in North America. The program is an extension of Roots of Empathy which was introduced by Mary Gordon in 1996 with a mission to build caring, peaceful, and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults. Seeds of Empathy shares this mission and works towards it by fostering social and emotional competence as well as early literacy skills and attitudes in children 3-5 years old. As Leah states, “This age group is perfect because it’s the time that children are focused on themselves. This curriculum teaches them to care for and be concerned with others at a foundational level.”

The Seeds of Empathy curriculum contains 3 main components. Twice a week, literacy circles help children develop empathy by introducing the perspectives of others while encouraging the exploration of one’s personal feelings. Family visits are visits from a volunteer parent and baby and occur every three weeks. Topics explored in the literacy circles are emphasized during these visits. Children are provided the opportunity to see the loving relationship between parent and baby, to ask questions, and to develop emotional literacy by learning to describe the feelings of the baby and of themselves. Professional development is the third component to the curriculum, and is introduced after the first year to provide continued support and education for the staff.

The entire program lasts 9 months and will be documented by Y’s Care staff. Follow the progress of the program through regular updates on the ywca clark county facebook page and look forward to a follow up article in the July e-newsletter. Learn more about Y’s Care on this website or by calling Leah Reitz at 360 906 9128. Learn more about the Seeds of Empathy program at

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