Babies help teach empathy at Hillsdale Elementary

Posted at 5:14 PM, Feb 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-26 19:15:10-05

Hillsdale Elementary School in the West Ada School District has six “brand new” teachers this year. They’re infants, and they’re helping teach an important lesson about empathy. 

Nine-month-old Boomer Schaat is one of the babies participating in school counselor Kerry Elder’s social project, which explores the idea that understanding the emotions of a baby can lead to the development of empathy.

“Babies don’t hide their feelings, so they’re able to watch that and relate it to themselves, which teaches them empathy,” Elder said. 

Students are tasked with labeling Boomer’s feelings. 

“If he gets sad or anything, then I get sad because you care so much for him,” said fifth-grader Afton Janke. 

Afterward, they reflect on why Boomer is feeling the way he does, and discuss how the students oftentimes feel the same way themselves.

“I’ve gotten really in touch with my emotions because I’ve seen him express his and it’s just really fun having him here,” said fifth-grader Anna Webb. 

From developmental milestones, like standing, to emotional highs and lows, the students take note of Boomer’s growth.

“They were super excited when he got his first teeth and when he crawled for the first time,” said Sharis Schaat, Boomer’s mother. “That was probably the biggest one.”

Boomer is one of six babies who visit Hillsdale Elementary School once a month, helping teach a valuable lesson that will last a lifetime.

Elder has started a fundraiser to help purchase infant toys for the empathy babies, to use during their interactions. For more information, click here.