Gifts for our Tiny Teachers

Roots of Empathy Baby Celebration 2017

On May 29, the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) celebrated our sixth year of Roots of Empathy, a unique program that brings a Tiny Teacher – a baby in their first months of life – into elementary classrooms. The 2016-17 school year saw Roots of Empathy in almost 30 SCDSB schools, led by volunteers, SCDSB staff and Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) Public Health Nurses.

This year we celebrated the remarkable contributions of all of our Roots of Empathy instructors, families and babies with a picnic at the Education Centre. Hope Park, a volunteer instructor who has been facilitating the program in the SCDSB since 2012, was honoured for five years of service with the program. Director of Education Steve Blake and many SCDSB superintendents of education were in attendance to meet and thank our little ones and their families, and acknowledge the power of the program and the work of all of our Roots of Empathy Instructors.

 

Roots of Empathy is an international evidence-based program that started in Toronto. By observing the growth and development of the baby and the attachment between the baby and their parents, students in Roots programs learn to be more caring and empathic global citizens. Since 2000, the program has been evaluated in numerous independent research studies, which have shown that children who participate in the program demonstrate decreased aggression and increased social and emotional understanding, empathy, knowledge of parenting and pro-social behavior (e.g. sharing, helping and including). This program supports our board’s work to ensure equitable, inclusive, safe and caring schools.

For further information, please contact the Roots of Empathy key point persons for the SCDSB, Stephanie Ross and Denise Cole, at roots@scdsb.on.ca.

Photo of Hillcrest's Girls on the Move

Grade 5 to 8 girls at Hillcrest are ‘on the move’

WE ARE GIRLS, WE CAN DO IT!
WE CAN RUN, WE CAN PROVE IT!

That is the chant that 33 girls from Grade 5 to 8 at Hillcrest Public School chanted as they gathered twice weekly to train for a five kilometre run, held on June 15. By committing to the run, these Girls on the Move made a decision to push themselves to do something they hadn’t done before. The pushed themselves to run harder and faster, and came out stronger.

Continue reading “Grade 5 to 8 girls at Hillcrest are ‘on the move’”

Banting students learn stories of resilience from residential school survivors

Education about reconciliation has taken many forms over the past year in the SCDSB. In honour of National Aboriginal Day on June 21, we would like to highlight another way our students have been learning about and reaching out to survivors of residential schools.

Kathy Hacon-Belcourt teaches Grade 9 English at Banting Memorial High School. Recently, her classes have been reading the book Keeper’n Me by Richard Wagamese. In order to personalize and extend their learning, she shared an article from The Muskokan titled Locked away and forgotten. The article told the stories of three women who spent years living in the Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia.

Continue reading “Banting students learn stories of resilience from residential school survivors”

Learning about First Nation, Métis and Inuit culture in the SCDSB

Submitted by: Lisa Ewanchuk, Principal, First Nation, Métis and Inuit Education

June 21st marks the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day in Canada. Each year, First Nation, Métis and Inuit people gather together on the summer solstice to celebrate their rich and diverse cultural traditions and to acknowledge their contributions to their communities and to society as a whole.

In the SCDSB, we are learning about Canada’s First Nation, Métis and Inuit people through:

  • the Seven Grandfather Teachings
  • Little Spirits
  • beading
  • Métis teachings
  • We Are All Treaty People
  • Walking the Path
  • circles

We continue to learn about residential schools, the inter-generational impacts and reconciliation. More information about First Nation, Métis and Inuit education is available on the SCDSB website.

Implementing the Calls for Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be on the forefront of our work next year. To learn more, please visit http://umanitoba.ca/centres/nctr/

Craft reconciliation photo

Students work together to build a shared vision of reconciliation

Contributed by: Jaclyn Calder, Technology Enabled Learning Teacher, Simcoe County District School Board

This year students across Simcoe County collaborated with others across Ontario around the theme of reconciliation. Wab Kinew challenged all Canadian students to work together (Indigenous and non-indigenous) to learn about each others’ communities and cultures before working together to build a representation of their vision of reconciliation in Minecraft. Minecraft is a virtual world where students can design and build together.

Since February participating classes have;

  • joined in 12 Google Hangouts on Air 
  • participated in a Google Hangout on Air with Waubgeshig Rice
  • wrote, read and responded to over 700 posts in our D2L online discussion forum
  • created video, images and audio to introduce themselves and share
  • defended what they felt to be ‘the most important’ Call to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • challenged each other to learn new language and understand what terms like ‘unceded’ mean
  • read books along the theme of reconciliation and shared reviews online
  • worked together in two separate Minecraft worlds to build their collective vision of reconciliation
  • posted a reflection on their learning
  • posted thought and ideas on social media using the tag #craftreconciliation
  • created images to help break down stereotypes
  • annotated reading material online using collaborative annotation tools
  • created murals combining both Indigenous and non-indigenous artistic styles
  • designed and built dioramas to show the relationship between Indigenous and non-indigenous in the past, present and future
  • wrote letters to youth in Attiwapiskat
  • wrote news reports and put them together to create an ebook

The following images were submitted by participants with the intent of breaking down stereotypes.


One thing for sure can be said about our work together – the students owned their learning. To support a collaboration like this also required the teachers of every class to learn new strategies and technologies together. Every teacher contributed to our learning. Thank you to the participating classes from the schools and boards listed below. This was an amazing opportunity for students and teachers in Simcoe County and beyond. You can learn more about the project by visiting the project blog.

Chippewas of Rama First Nation
Mnjikaning Kendaaswin Elementary School

Wikwemikong Board of Education
Wikwemikong High School
Wasse Abin Pontiac School

Simcoe County District School Board
Codrington Public School
Midland Secondary School
Nantyr Shores Secondary School
Orillia Secondary School
Penetanguishene Secondary School
Twin Lakes Secondary School

Rainy River District School Board
Mine Centre Elementary School

Upper Grand District School Board
Orangeville District Secondary School

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board
Peel Catholic District School Board
Peel District School Board
York Catholic District School Board

The 2016 Roots of Empathy tiny teachers group photo

Our Tiny Teachers

This week, the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) celebrated 20 of our youngest and most influential educators – all under a year old!  Our “tiny teachers” and their parents support the Roots of Empathy program in elementary schools across the SCDSB. Roots of Empathy is an internationally recognized, evidence-based program focused on building levels of empathy and decreasing aggression and bullying in schools around the world.

In the Roots of Empathy program, a community parent and baby (aged two to four months old in the fall) visit a classroom nine times over the course of the school year. A trained Roots of Empathy Instructor visits with the family to guide children as they observe the relationship between the baby and the parent. An additional 18 classes facilitated by the Instructor deepen student learning to help them understand the impact of the loving attachment between parent and baby that they observed, and foster student learning on human development, temperament, safe and healthy parenting, and more.

The program uses perspective-taking to help students to develop empathy for their peers, helps students to develop emotional literacy, increases knowledge of human development and infant safety, and prepares students for responsible citizenship and responsive parenting.

Roots of Empathy was founded in 1996 by Mary Gordon in Toronto, Canada, and became a charitable not-for-profit organization in 2000. To date, the program has reached over half a million children worldwide.  In the SCDSB, the program is facilitated by trained instructors – both volunteers, Public Health Nurses from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, and Child and Youth Workers from the SCDSB.  We are always looking for new instructors and families.  Those interested in finding out more or applying should email roots@scdsb.on.ca.

Stayner Collegiate Institute students share hope in gesture of reconciliation

Students in the First Nation, Metis and Inuit Studies classes at Stayner Collegiate Institute (SCI) worked together to participate in the Project of Heart and create a Voice of Hope. Throughout the 2015-16 school year, over 45 Grade 9 to 12 students learned about the residential school system and its impact from teacher Ty McNea and community member Raven Murphy.

Together, they’ve created an art installation including a medicine wheel with tiles and Voice of Hope videos as a gesture of reconciliation and to foster a sense of hope for our shared future.

Picture of SCI Project of Heart medicine wheel with art tiles

At the project unveiling ceremony, Simcoe County District School Board First Nation Trustee Daniel Shilling noted that “residential schools impacted every community differently, but all were affected, and healing is still needed. It will take many generations to heal, but projects like this one are part of that process.”

“Participating in this project made me feel hopeful. It gave me hope for the future. We just want things to get better,” said one of the students involved in the project.