Bishop Walker School for Boys
Roots of Empathy
The Bishop Walker School for Boys is a member of a consortium of independent, traditional public, and public charter schools that brought the international Roots of Empathy program to the city of Washington, DC. Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program that has shown significant effect in reducing levels of aggression among school children while raising social and emotional competence and increasing empathy.
The program centers on a baby and his parents who visit a classroom every three weeks over the school year. A trained Roots of Empathy instructor works with the class to observe the baby's development and label the baby's feelings. Through this experiential learning children come to identify and reflect on their own feelings and those of others. The emotional literacy taught lays the foundation for more safe and caring classrooms. Students become more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others, and will therefore be less likely to physically and psychologically hurt each other through bullying and other cruelties. The instructor also teaches a specialized lesson plan for each classroom visit.
Perennial Garden Club
The Bishop Walker School has partnered with the Perennial Garden Club to develop an urban educational landscape that integrates curricula with rich, hands-on experience. Phase I of the project, “Embracing Arms”, included the establishment of a welcoming entrance garden, an outdoor classroom and a shade tree canopy. Phase II, the “Living Classroom”, brings the landscape to life with a laboratory providing the spaces and tools necessary to integrate the curriculum with nature. In the Living Classroom, students check the rain barrel, dig in the worm pit, paint observations on permanent easels, observe butterflies in their natural habitat, feed the birds or count rings in tree stumps.
In addition to creating wonderful experiential spaces for the students, this unique partnership supports faculty professional development. Each year, a faculty “Perennial Fellow” is chosen to steward the partnership, including sharing teaching materials with the faculty, serving as a liaison between the school and the garden club and applying for additional resources as needed. Faculty members are also able to attend the annual American Horticultural Society’s Youth Garden Symposium and creates wonderful opportunities for the school community to come together to plant and harvest vegetables in the raised garden beds or to perform periodic maintenance of the various elements of the landscape.
Seventy-seven percent of the students at the Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys come from single-family homes which are primarily headed by women. The Lunch Buddies program offers a powerful opportunity for Bishop Walker School students to interact and develop lasting relationships with positive adult male role models. Nearly thirty men from various professional backgrounds participate in the program. A Lunch Buddy has lunch with his class and then reads, plays or shares a personal interest.