Roots of Empathy

Roots of Empathy (ROE) is an evidence-based classroom program. It has proven to reduce levels of aggression and bullying among children. It also raises social/emotional competence and increases empathy.

Embedded in the Early Years Strategy, this work aligns with the Board Improvement Plan (Mental Health and Addictions) and the Director’s Annual Plan. It builds partnerships in a collaborative culture of student learning, growth and success.​

The mission is to build caring, peaceful and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults. At it's heart, the program has a neighbourhood​ infant and parent who engage students in their classroom nine times over the school year. A ROE-trained instructor coaches the students to observe the baby’s development and to label the baby’s feelings.

Roots of Empathy Evidence

Roots of Empathy children demonstrated:

  • Increase in social and emotional knowledge
  • Decrease in aggression
  • Increase in positive behaviour (e.g. sharing, helping and including)
  • Increase in perceptions among ROE students of the classroom as a caring environment
  • Increased understanding of infants and parenting

Roots of Empathy Family

A Roots of Empathy Family must have a baby who will be two-to-four months old at the beginning of the program. Families commit to visiting the classroom once every three weeks during the program year.

We seek families who live in the community, so that they reflect the cultural, racial and linguistic tone of the neighbourhood. This helps create a bond between the children in the classroom and the Roots of Empathy Family, which is reinforced when the children see the parent(s) and baby in the street and rush over to ask how ‘their baby’ is doing.

It’s important that the adult in the ROE Family be a parent, because we focus on the secure attachment relationship of the baby to the parent. Other adults (caregivers, grandparents, elders etc.) may not substitute for the parent but are welcome to observe a Family Visit.

If you would like to participate in a YRDSB Roots of Empathy program, please fill out this Google form. Our Key Point Person, Ralph-Anthony Masciello, will be in touch shortly following your submission. For more information, you can contact