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Greater good science center & the wisdom of babies

Recently I was looking at the idealistic & interesting website "Greater good: the science of a meaningful life".  Their mission statement reads "The Greater Good Science Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society.  Based at the University of California, Berkeley, the GGSC is unique in its commitment to both science and practice: not only do we sponsor groundbreaking scientific research into social and emotional well-being, we help people apply this research to their personal and professional lives.  Since 2001, we have been at the fore of a new scientific movement to explore the roots of happy and compassionate individuals, strong social bonds, and altruistic behavior - the science of a meaningful life.  And we have been without peer in our award-winning efforts to translate and disseminate this science to the public."  Their core activities include a university fellowship program, a science-based blog raising happiness on parenting, sponsoring a variety of conferences & workshops, and greater good the online magazine. 

I visit the "Greater good" website about every month, largely to glance at their regular commentaries on interesting recent research articles.  At my most recent visit I came across "The wisdom of babies", an introduction to Mary Gordon's fascinating & inspiring work as founder of "Roots of Empathy", a world-renowned programme that brings babies into classrooms to help teach emotional literacy.  Gordon comments that - in her work with troubled families - "I saw that if you haven't experienced love, it's very difficult to know how to love.  So what can we do to break this cycle of abuse and neglect?   My idea was to focus on the attachment relationship between parent and child. I believe that we inherit the capacity for empathy-that we are all intuitively empathic - but this capacity can wither on the vine if a child never experiences empathy in the attachment relationship with his or her parents. So why not learn from the attachment relationship?  That idea motivated me to launch Roots of Empathy in 1996. Roots of Empathy is a classroom-based program for children in kindergarten through grade eight. Our mission is to build more caring, peaceful, and civil societies by raising levels of empathy in children.  Really the heart of the program is bringing the attachment relationship into the classroom: Every month for nine months, we bring an infant into the classroom with its parents, accompanied by a Roots of Empathy instructor. Children watch love grow over a whole school year; they watch confidence and security and emotional attunement between parent and child grow as well.  In addition to the family visits, the Roots of Empathy instructor visits the classroom days before the family visit, to help the children prepare for it, and days after the family visit, to help the children reflect on it, for a total of 27 Roots of Empathy visits over the year. Through these visits we teach emotional literacy. Every time the baby demonstrates some emotion, the children talk about the baby's intention and what the baby must be feeling. They are learning the language for their feelings."

What a special initiative!  Apparently "After starting as a pilot program with 150 children in Toronto 15 years ago, Roots of Empathy has now spread across Canada and across the world.  This past school year, more than 47,000 children participated in Canada, in about 1,900 classrooms and 1,300 schools. In the fall of 2011, every Canadian province will be taking part in the program. It is delivered in English and French and reaches rural, urban, and remote communities, including Aboriginal communities in Canada. To date, Roots of Empathy has reached more than 363,000 children across the country. We have also launched a "sister" program, Seeds of Empathy, for younger children, three to five years of age, in childcare centers.  We also have programs in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, and Germany. The program is just now taking off in the United States, with a program in Seattle and new ones launching in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area this fall. We are planning to reach other countries soon."

Precious work ...

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