Roots of Empathy

Roots of Empathy (ROE) is a Canadian, award-winning program, developed by Mary Gordon, that has been shown to have a dramatic effect in reducing levels of aggression among school children by raising social/emotional awareness and increasing empathy.

  • Roots of Empathy (ROE) is an evidence-based, bilingual, universal classroom based program for students from kindergarten to Grade 8 which focuses on building capacity of the next generation for caring and compassionate citizenship and parenting.
  • Certified instructors follow a standardized Canadian curriculum (K, 1-4, 5-6, 7-8) to provide ROE for students in the classroom, 3 times a month for a school year.  The heart of the program is the monthly family visit with a neighbourhood baby (2-4 months old in October) and parent(s).  The emotional bond that develops with the “classroom” baby over the school year increases students’ emotional literacy, resulting in increased prosocial behaviour and decreased aggression and bullying.
  • Students receive age appropriate instruction on the crucial role of positive parenting for optimal early childhood development, including neuroscience, safety and injury reduction (Shaken Baby Syndrome, SIDS, FASD), diversity and inclusion, and how to understand and take the perspective of another person.

Roots of Empathy was launched in Manitoba as a pilot project in 2001. Positive outcomes resulted in Manitoba offering ROE province-wide to interested public, band-operated and private school divisions and communities. In July 2008, the Assembly of First Nations, at their Annual General Assembly, passed Resolution 31 endorsing and supporting ROE and SOE as programs compatible with traditional First Nations teachings.

In 2013/14 approximately 6000 Manitoba students from kindergarten to grade 8 participated. Approximately 35,000 Manitoba students have participated in ROE in the past 13 years.

From 2002 to 2006 Manitoba conducted a randomized control trial and longitudinal follow-up to determine the real world effectiveness of the ROE program, as delivered under routine conditions of practice in school divisions. The results demonstrated that ROE decreased students’ physical aggression and indirect aggression, and increased students’ pro-social behaviour immediately after program completion. Follow-up results demonstrated that these beneficial effects were maintained or continued to improve up to three years after ROE program completion. Based on these rigorous evaluation results, ROE has continued to expand across the province, with ongoing monitoring of program fidelity and student outcomes.

Roots of Empathy is an important component of Reclaiming Hope - Manitoba's Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy.

Read more about the Effectiveness of the Roots of Empathy (ROE) Program in
Preventing Aggression and Promoting Prosocial Behaviour
| April 2010 Adobe Reader

Healthcare Quarterly, 14(Special Issue 2) 2011: 80-91: Effectiveness of School-Based Violence Prevention for Children and Youth: A Research Report

Visit the Roots of Empathy website


A partnership of:

Manitoba Education and Training • Manitoba Families • Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living • Manitoba Indigenous and Northern Relations • Manitoba Justice • Manitoba Sustainable Development / Francophone Affairs / Status of Women