Aliyah teaches empathy
Like most 1-year-olds Aliyah Takamore loves playing with her food as much as eating it.
But when she plants her face into a bowl of noodles her captive audience is more than just the usual mum and dad.
A class of 9 and 10-year-olds chuckles at the baby's eating antics during the Roots of Empathy programme led by teacher aide Ruth Carty.
The fascinated year 5 pupils at Parakai School have been learning to understand others during a year of monthly visits from the Helensville baby and her mum Emma Lockhart.
Research shows the programme has helped to stop school bullying in Canada where it was founded, Mrs Carty says.
The goal is for children to develop empathy towards others and understand that everyone is different.
"There are kids out there who can't speak or can't hear, and kids going through challenges in life," she says.
"We encourage the students to put themselves in their shoes and try to understand how hard things might be for them."
Mrs Carty says the response has been fantastic and the message is getting through to most.
The curriculum also covers safety in the home, foetal alcohol syndrome, safe handling of babies, their temperaments and sleeping patterns.
Students even explore the cloth versus disposable nappy debate.
Aliyah has visited room 4 pupils since she was a newly weaned four-month-old.
Interaction with the children has boosted the baby's confidence and given her new social skills.
"When she started she was so clingy to her mum and timid but today she's a lot different," Mrs Carty says.
"She just loves the children and they love her."
Mrs Lockhart says the programme has made the children more aware of younger students as well as giving her daughter new friends.
"They are all very caring for Aliyah.
"The kids each wrote a poem, joined them together and gave them to her."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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