They just might be the tiniest teachers in Seattle: infants, being brought into the classroom for a lesson in empathy.
The 'Roots of Empathy' program has proven popular among elementary-aged children in Seattle. Now, there's a new twist.
We've had Roots of Empathy in Seattle for seven years, and Seeds of Empathy is a younger version of Roots of Empathy, it's for three to five year old children, said the program's founder and director Mary Gordon.
Seattle is the first city in the U.S. to test out the 'Seeds of Empathy' program.
On Thursday, baby Sam and his mother arrived at a daycare classroom in Sand Point, for one of his lessons. This was his third visit with the group of toddlers.
Already, Gordon said they're seeing progress.
I think the most striking part of witnessing what's happening here in this childcare center is the way the children are able to understand or give their take on what Same is feeling and what his intentions are, she said. They see him as a little person, and they are advocating, give him this, that's what he wants.
A team of researchers from the University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences also sat in on Sam's visit.
They're conducting a separate study, to see the impact 'Seeds of Empathy' has on kids' brains.
Seeds of Empathy is really teaching about perpsective taking and emotional literacy, said University of Washington Psychologist Andrew Meltzoff. And we think children who are exposed to these babies in the seeds program will have more vibrant and more action reaction to the emotions of others.
Besides Seattle, the 'Seeds of Empathy' Program can only be found in Canada and Scotland.
The hope is to soon expand it to daycares throughout the U.S.
Meltzoff says that can't happen soon enough.
Society needs people who are empathetic and can take the perspective of others. We need that desperately in our society. Thse are actually the seeds of that important ability, he said.