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

The focus of Roots of Empathy in the long term is to build the capacity of the next generation for responsible citizenship and responsive parenting. In the short term, Roots of Empathy focuses on raising levels of empathy, resulting in more respectful and caring relationships and reduced levels of bullying and aggression. Part of our success is the universal nature of the program; all students are positively engaged instead of targeting bullies or aggressive children.

Roots of Empathy strives to break the intergenerational cycle of violence and poor parenting. 

Our Goals

  • To foster the development of empathy
  • To develop emotional literacy
  • To reduce levels of bullying, aggression, violence, and promote children’s pro-social behaviours
  • To increase knowledge of human development, learning, and infant safety
  • To prepare students for responsible citizenship and responsive parenting

Our Values

Empathy is the ability to identify with another person’s feelings. The ability to see and feel things as others see and feel them, is central to competent parenting and successful social relationships in all stages of life.

The classroom is a window on the future. Children learn to care for one another, their world and their future. Building good citizens in the classroom today, will lead to a civil society tomorrow.

In the Roots of Empathy classroom, respect encompasses appreciating the uniqueness of each individual, their opinions, beliefs and contributions, the importance of voice, the role of place and a respectful sense of our environment as a gift for our shared use.

At all income levels, parenting has a powerful impact on children’s learning and behaviour, on who they become. Roots of Empathy teaches the crucial role of parenting for optimal early childhood development leading to healthy human development. The children of today are the parents and citizens of tomorrow.

The Roots of Empathy classroom is a participatory democracy where all children are encouraged to contribute and ask questions. Activities are designed to help children work on consensus building and collaboration. They gain experience working in small groups that are not determined by their level of reading or their math skills; these new groupings allow children to reinvent themselves. Reticent children who normally don’t speak in class become fearless contributors. There are no wrong answers in a Roots of Empathy classroom. Instructors are trained to thank children for their contributions rather than praising them. This principle of intrinsic motivation creates a tone that is friendly, participatory and levels of social trust rise.

The Roots of Empathy program focuses on “setting a place at the table for everybody. Whether a person’s seat at the table is in a wheelchair, a rocking chair or a high chair.” Inclusion means identifying our differences and celebrating our sameness; it allows us to build on our common human experience.

Roots of Empathy celebrates diversity. Enlarging our perspective brings learning to everyone; this perspective includes different races, religions, languages, cultures and people who are different in their lifestyles, economic levels, political beliefs, parenting styles, family configurations, abilities, and disabilities.

The Roots of Empathy program creates awareness of risk factors to babies and has a strong focus on abuse prevention. Children are never too young to learn about Shaken Baby Syndrome, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and the dangers of second-hand smoke.

Roots of Empathy has been identified as an anti-bullying program. Because children are taught to understand how others feel and are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions and inactions, pro-social behaviours rise and incidents of bullying and aggression fall.

Local Impact

Since 2002, Roots of Empathy has reached over 6,000 children in Thunder Bay. Anywhere from 500-1,000 students participate in the program each year. All local school boards participate in Roots of Empathy. 

For more information about Roots of Empathy in Thunder Bay, please contact Nadine at

Mary, the Founder and President of Roots of Empathy, has a series of videos related to parenting through Covid-19.  Visit to view the videos or to learn more. Topics include:

  • Resilience
  • Intrinsic Motivation
  • Play
  • Sleep
  • Expectations
  • School Anxiety