Washington Post Front Page Story: D.C. classrooms welcome babies in effort to teach empathy

Editor's Note: On June 2, 2014, The Washington Post newspaper front page story highlighted an Ashoka Changemaker School and an Ashoka Fellow organization whose work showcase Ashoka's key strategy to transform the growing up experience of youth to one where changemaking is at the core.

Maury is one of five D.C. elementary schools attempting to harness the disarming power of infants to help students recognize and deal with emotions in themselves and their classmates. The babies, in other words, are meant to help teach children how to be kind.

“I think it’s really changed people in our class,” said 10-year-old Vivian Dougherty, a fourth-grader at Maury who has spent the year learning from Baby June, who is 11 months old. “It’s really made people nicer.”

The program, called Roots of Empathy, was conceived nearly two decades ago in Toronto and has since become common across Canada. Now it has been imported to the United States, amid growing concern about classroom bullying and growing conviction that teaching certain character traits — such as persistence, self-control and self-confidence — is just as crucial for students’ futures as teaching academics.

Read more on the Washington Post website.


Ashoka's vision is an Everyone a Changemaker world where every child must master empathy and every teen must practice changemaking. Maury Elementary, a Washington DC public school, is a changemaker school, a part of Ashoka's network of "changemaker schools” that help equip every young person with the critical skills necessary to succeed in a fast-changing world. Please see www.startempathy.org for more information about the initiative which now spans a global network of 64 schools; 54 in the US and 10 in Europe. Mary Gordon, founder of Roots of Empathy” is an Ashoka Fellow.