Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based social and emotional learning program delivered in elementary school classrooms that has been proven to increase pro-social behaviors and decrease aggression such as bullying. The mission of this international program, founded by Mary Gordon, is this: “Roots of Empathy is helping to create a world in which people help more and hurt less by fostering empathy in children. We do this by supporting children to create a deeper connection with themselves and others.”

A champion of the program, Montessori School of Maui Head of School Dr. Eric Dustman utilized Mary Gordon’s research in his doctoral studies where he sought to more fully understand the perspective that children ages 9-12 have about empathy. His own work affirmed the value of the Roots of Empathy program and supported his own findings that empathy is innate, can also be learned, and is evocative of physiological changes within the body. Efforts to implement the program at Montessori School of Maui have been met with high praise and real, tangible results. Fully integrated in five classrooms presently with five others scheduled for the next academic year, Eric says, “Roots of Empathy encourages children to look inward and reflect outward. By strengthening their ability to practice perspective taking, young children develop a greater tendency to consider themselves, others, and behavior that supports new relationships and shared connections.”

Research over two decades shows that Roots of Empathy:

  • significantly reduces aggression and bullying;
  • significantly increases pro-social behaviors (e.g., sharing, caring, kindness, helping); and
  • creates beneficial impacts that last over time.

The Montessori School of Maui staff and instructors feel honored and inspired to be the first school on Maui to implement this important program. The school looks forward to seeing positive social and emotional effects from this program in the community for years to come.

Roots of Empathy Founder, Mary Gordon, on Maui May 1, 2019

Free Community Event:  “Cultivating Emotional Literacy in the Children of Hawaii:  A Parent & Teacher Education Event”

Roots of Empathy Founding President, Mary Gordon, will discuss cultivating emotional literacy at Montessori School of Maui on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, 6:00-7:00 p.m. All parents and teachers in the Maui community are welcome to attend. There will be a Q&A following the event. From Mary: “How can education prepare children with the necessary skills for a future workforce when we cannot predict the future that awaits them? What we do know is that by building social and emotional competencies in their Roots of Empathy classroom we are preparing them to build and maintain positive relationships that will support them now and into the future, both in their personal and public life.” For more information on the Roots of Empathy Program, visit: