Roots of Empathy

Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based program that has shown dramatic effect in 
reducing levels of aggression among school children while raising social and emotional competence and increasing empathy.

Founded in 1996

Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based, award-winning program, created by Mary Gordon, that has shown dramatic effect in reducing levels of aggression among school children while raising social and emotional competence and increasing empathy. The program reaches elementary school children from Kindergarten to Grade 8.

The mission of Roots of Empathy is to build caring, peaceful, and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults.

Since 1996, over 1,000,000 children worldwide have participated in this award-winning program. 

Baby as Teacher

At the heart of the program are a neighbourhood infant, the “Teacher,” and parent who visit the classroom. Over the school year, a trained Roots of Empathy Instructor guides the children as they observe the relationship between baby and parent. As they learn about the baby’s temperament and emotions, they develop a deeper understanding of themselves and others.

Roots of Empathy in Waterloo and Wellington Regions

YWCA Cambridge has been working with Roots of Empathy since 2007. To date, we have worked with thousands of students, and hundreds of teachers, families, and instructors. Currently, we operate almost 100 programs in the Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph communities, across four school boards.

For more information about this award winning program, please visit the Roots of Empathy website


My Classroom →
"Students acquire lifelong skills in compassion and empathy that help them maintain positive peer relationships, responsible citizenship, and a sense of community.”


My Story →
"...the kids were extremely welcoming, as the program progressed it was great to observe how excited they were to see Lucas and how caring and protective they became. In turn, Lucas also began developing relationships with the students and really enjoyed showing off and interacting with the kids."


My Story →
"This excellent program aligns with several Ontario curriculum expectations, while, nurturing empathy, social and emotional literacy."


My Story →
"Students acquire lifelong skills in compassion and empathy that help them maintain positive peer relationships, responsible citizenship, and a sense of community.”

Seeds of Empathy

Seeds of Empathy grew out of Roots of Empathy. The program is designed for children in an Early Childhood setting. Seeds of Empathy has been proven to foster social and emotional competence,  early literacy skills and positive attitudes in children three to five years of age while providing professional development for their educators.

Currently, YWCA Cambridge facilitates Seeds of Empathy in our Ryerson and St. Elizabeth Child Care Centres. For more information about the program, please contact us.


Ways to get involved...

Are you interested in investing in the social and emotional literacy of children in Waterloo Region? Each spring, we recruit instructors and families for an October start date in the schools. Find out about our volunteer opportunities for families and instructors below.

Volunteer Families

Parents with babies who will be between 2-4 months old in October will work alongside a trained Roots of Empathy instructor to teach young children about the physical, emotional and social development of your baby. Together, you will visit the classroom once a month between October and June (9 visits in total). Each visit will last approximately 30-40 minutes and during that time the school children will have the opportunity to learn about your child’s development. One parent is required to attend each classroom visit and, where schedule permits, a second parent occasionally joins in. 

If you or someone you know is expecting a baby in June through early September and are interested in learning more about the program, please contact us.

Roots of Empathy instructors reap the rewards of helping children become more caring and responsible citizens through their work in the class. Many of our dedicated instructors come with backgrounds in teaching, health, social work and/or recreation. They are comfortable speaking in front of classrooms and working with children. We welcome all volunteers interested in this role who have the time available.

If you have approximately 2 hours each week for the 27 weeks of the program (mid-October – June) this opportunity could be for you. Due to the investment made in training and support during the first year of delivery, we do ask for a 2 year commitment of our facilitators.

Get In Touch

Have a Question Or Need Assistance?

If you have a question about YWCA Cambridge, our programs or events, or simply want to get involved, please give us a call or send us an email.

Contact Us

Address: 102-55 Dickson Street, Cambridge, Ontario, N1R 7A5

Office Hours:
Monday to Friday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Saturdays, Sundays & holidays: closed

Tel: (519) 267-6444 
Main Email:

W Programming Email:

Shades’s Mills Camp Email:

WIGG Email:

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