Cookie preferences

HundrED uses necessary cookies that are essential to use the service and to provide a better user experience. Read more about our cookies.
Accept cookies

Roots of Empathy

Helping children develop empathy for mental health, wellbeing, learning and connecting to others.

Roots of Empathy, a leader in the empathy movement, develops empathy and emotional literacy in children to build the world they deserve. Our elementary school-based programs intervene early and are proven to reduce aggression/bullying and increase pro-social behavior, while promoting wellbeing and mental health in children and preparing them for responsible citizenship and responsive parenting.

Hall of Fame


Web presence






Target group
Students lower
April 2024
Education would be changed if every student and every teacher could experience Roots of Empathy in their classroom. When teachers host Roots of Empathy they receive embedded professional development, which allows them to witness students grow emotionally resulting in increased levels of mental health & wellbeing. Emotional literacy is foundational, and is the most overlooked of all the literacies.

About the innovation

Why did you create this innovation?

28 years ago, Mary Gordon catalyzed a crucial insight, that the absence of empathy is the common thread of power abuse, be it bullying in childhood, violence at home, bullying in the workplace, or on the world stage. This revelation gave birth to the Roots of Empathy program, a positive disruptive innovation in education that supports the mental health and wellbeing of elementary school children.

What does your innovation look like in practice?

Children in Roots of Empathy( ROE) classrooms are coached to connect with the vulnerability and humanity of a tiny baby who visits during the school year with their parent, along with an ROE Instructor using a gold-standard curriculum. The Instructor coaches students to observe and recognize the baby's feelings and reflect on when they felt similar emotions. They are further coached to read the emotional cues of classmates, allowing them to understand others better and make friends. This ‘emotional literacy’ makes children more likely to understand their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy) and therefore less likely to hurt each other through bullying and other cruelties. If childhood aggression is unchecked, it can be a gateway to poor mental health and violence. Research spanning 2 decades consistently demonstrates the program's ability to reduce aggression and bullying in children. Moreover, it instills lasting pro-social behaviours such as kindness and inclusiveness.

How has it been spreading?

Cultural responsiveness:
Available for 4 age levels and in 7 languages, ROE values diversity, integrates many perspectives, and collaborates with Indigenous people.
Best practice training: ROE ensures Instructors are qualified & supported by receiving a 4-day training with mentoring and professional development.
Evaluation: Impact measured through academic research and Annual Program Evaluations that survey participants.
Growing the movement: Founder Mary Gordon inspires empathic policy and action through important presentations around the globe (e.g. being on C20 Education and Digital Transformation panels, a contributor to the G20).
2 year goal: The pandemic impacted children’s mental health & wellbeing, as well as their teachers’. Our goal: Bringing the ROE program to more children

If I want to try it, what should I do?

Contact us at to get more information on what is required to bring Roots of Empathy to your community/country.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

Roots of Empathy is based on the idea that of taking the perspective of the other, to notice and appreciate our commonalities. Over 17 years of research has yielded consistent results, showing that Roots of Empathy students perceive a more inclusive and caring environment by the end of the program. Their motto"Changing the world, child by child" is apparent in their easily scaled approach.

HundrED Academy Reviews

The concept is fascinating. So much data exists pointing to its clear impact, which is great to see. And the concept is clearly scalable in its massive reach.

This is wonderful - it is bringing back something that would have been inherent to childhood and everyday life (family life). Highly impactful through relationships and watching a young child grow and develop. Just beautiful.

- Academy member
Academy review results
Read more about our selection process


February 23 -25, 2024-Métis Nation Of Ontario – Early Literacy Development requires the Connection of Mind, Hand and Heart Mary Gordon was the Keynote speaker at the 5th Annual Early Learning Conference hosted by the Métis Nation of Ontario in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario. The conference provided an opportunity for 350 attendees and educators from across Ontario, and other provinces...
November 8-10, 2023 - Hope Restored/ L’espoir Renaît: New Brunswick Trauma Conference 2023 Mary Gordon gave the opening keynote address and spoke on the theme of Collective Trauma, Collective Hope, highlighting the cumulative effect of trauma and how empathy provides us with hope for the future.
November 3, 2023 - Inspired Teaching and Roots of Empathy discuss: Cultivating empathy, Academic Excellence, and Deeper Understanding. In Helsinki, Finland, during education week, Mary Gordon co-presented with Aleta Margolis, Founder and President of the Center for Inspired Teaching, where they spoke and lead a dynamic discussion with teachers and policy makers.
October 31 - November 2, 2023: HundrED Innovation Summit in Helsinki, Finland Mary Gordon gave the opening keynote address at the HundrED Innovation Summit announcing the 2024 Collection, where she shared the inspiration for Roots of Empathy and its global impact. To see Mary’s speech, visit
July 26, 2023 - Virtual Interview with Cheryl Luptak from Change Openly Cheryl Luptak, from Change Openly, invited Governor General of Canada Innovation Award (GGCI) laureates to share their valuable perspectives regarding the GGIAs in order to assess the impact of the award and explore how to amplify their impact. Change Openly empowers change makers to make a bigger difference by helping ignite
Revolutionizing the Ways Boys are Taught about Care: A MenCare CARING Webinar
On July 19, 2023, Mary Gordon, Founder and President of Roots of Empathy spoke in British Columbia at “A Joyous Celebration of Ideas, the Arts, Science, and Efforts to Make the World a Better Place Organiser”. Mary’s topic was Roots of Empathy: The Global Children’s Program, The Research and Impact on Education Policy.
Mary Gordon speaks at Collision 2023 about Chat GPT
Roots of Empathy Symposium 2023
The University of Oxford held a world summit on literacy on April 2-4th 2023. Founder and President Mary Gordon spoke about ‘Fostering Literacy through the Lens of Empathy: Connecting emotional literacy to traditional literacy for the success of the whole child.’
Insights from the C20 Panel on “Education for Life & Global Citizenship” - Roots of Empathy
Founder and President Mary Gordon was interviewed about: “Growing the garden of childhood: How Roots of Empathy nurtures connection for children and parents” by Jamie Lee. See the article.
Que reste-t-il de notre empathie ?
What is Emotional Literacy?
The Roots of Longevity & Quality of Life - Roots of Empathy
At the 73rd Annual Scientific Meeting hosted by the Paediatric Society of New Zealand, Mary Gordon, Founder/President of Roots of Empathy was a featured speaker on the topic of "Building a Culture of Empathy".
The Early Childhood Community Development Centre hosted Mary Gordon, respected author, founder, and president Roots of Empathy on October 24th, alongside partners from the Niagara Catholic District School Board and the District School Board of Niagara. See the release.
The Lean-In and Learn 2022-2023 series for ROE staff is led by Mary Gordon to respond to the myriad of global challenges, which impact children. There were 8 topics this year. The expansive conversations will include: empathic ways of closing the learning gap to antecedents of civil society.
In October of 2022, Roots of Empathy was 1 of 4 education innovations to be selected globally to be in the HundrED Hall of Fame. See our release.
Knowledge transfer 
BBC World Service
Kate Middleton & Prince William Adorably Bond w/ Kids In Scotland
Collision Summit June 2022 
Children’s Wishes for the World, 2022
Roots of Empathy Virtual Research Symposium 2021
Switzerland Roots of Empathy Research Study
Roots Of Empathy celebrates 25 years of fostering empathy | Here and Now Toronto with Gill Deacon | Live Radio | CBC Listen
ROE Children's Wishes for 2021
The Children's Gallery
NIVEA Human Touch Video Series - Mary Gordon
Roots of Empathy Annual Research Symposium
The power of touch
Roots of Empathy father and Tiny Teacher
Baby Celebration!
“The baby tackling bullying at school” 4 mins - 24 Million views
Mary Gordon: Using Innovations to Reduce Aggression and Bullying | HundrED Innovation Summit
Students follow all aspects of a baby’s development from two months to twelve months of age. They learn how “Love Grows Brains” and what babies need to develop into happy, fearless learners who know how to love and connect to others.
Classroom teacher and students observe as the Roots of Empathy Instructor demonstrates how the baby was able to visually track a toy and finally hold it for herself.

Implementation steps

Contact Roots of Empathy International Office
Contact us at to get more information on what is required to bring Roots of Empathy to your community/country.
Work through the steps of the implementation model
Work with Roots of Empathy to discuss a plan that is most appropriate for your location.
Determine which schools will host the program
Work with education authorities and school administrators to determine which schools will host the program. Identify pipelines for recruiting volunteer Instructors and families (with a baby).
Training and matching volunteers to classrooms
Once funding is secured and schools are selected, 4-day training of Instructors is arranged, and the assignment of a personal Mentor. Then Program Managers match volunteer families with Instructors and classrooms.
Annual Program Evaluation
At the end of the program year, the classroom teacher, students, volunteer parent and Instructor complete an Annual Program Evaluation which is used to inform local adaptation and quality assurance.

Spread of the innovation

loading map...