We teach a series of themes, each on a three-week cycle. During the first and second weeks of each cycle, Literacy Coaches (specially-trained staff members from the centre) engage small groups of children in interactive and creative activities.
In the third week, a Family Guide (another specially-trained staff member) hosts a Family Visit, where a baby (two to four months old at the beginning of the course) and his/her parent(s) join the children around a large Lavender Blanket.
The Family Guide encourages the children to observe the baby’s development, to label the baby’s feelings, and to talk about their own feelings and those of others. The baby becomes the Centre’s Tiny Teacher.
At the heart of the program are a neighbourhood infant and parent who visit the centre throughout the program year. A trained Family Guide, using the unique Seeds of Empathy curriculum, coaches children to observe the baby’s development and to label the baby’s feelings. In this experiential learning, the baby is the “Teacher” and a lever, which the Family Guide uses to help children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others. This “emotional literacy” taught in the program lays the foundation for safer and more caring centres, where children are the “Changers.” This “emotional literacy” taught in the program helps children become more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy). The Royal Foundation’s STATE OF THE NATION: UNDERSTANDING PUBLIC ATTITUDES TO THE EARLY YEARS posits, ‘Science tells us that a child’s experiences from conception through their first five years will go on to shape their next 50. It tells us that the kind of children we raise today, will reflect the kind of world we will live in tomorrow’.
They are more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy), and are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically, and emotionally hurt each other through bullying and other unkind acts.
In Seeds of Empathy, we use stories to help children explore their own feelings and take the perspective of others. Attitudes to reading are formed early through trusting relationships, which is what makes early childhood educators powerful role models. In Seeds of Empathy, at least two trained Literacy Coaches facilitate these Literacy Circles, which are supported by curriculum and two books per theme. Through the curriculum the books and Family Visits are connected by theme.
In addition to the two days of training, Seeds of Empathy offers a series of professional development workshops for centre staff. These workshops start the year after the staff have taken the Seeds of Empathy initial training.
Building on the power of the relationship the early childhood educator has with the children enriches the understanding of how to use this vehicle for learning in a joyful way while expanding their knowledge base and repertoire of skills.