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Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, smiles at baby Patrick McLean with his mother, Naomi Weir, during a visit Monday to Market Lane Public School in Toronto. Sophie paid tribute to the Roots of Empathy program at the school where school children participate with families with newborn babies.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

One Toronto school had a royal visitor Monday in support of anti-bullying program that brings babies into the classroom.

Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex, wife of Queen Elizabeth's youngest son and aunt of Princes William and Harry, visited Market Lane Public School and observed a mother introducing her infant to a Grade 2 and 3 classroom as part of the Roots of Empathy Program.

The Countess, Sophie Rhys-Jones, and her husband, Prince Edward, are visiting Toronto as part of a one-week tour of Canada.

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The Countess stopped in on the class as they tried to sooth 2-month old Ella August with songs of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and Paddy Cake.

Ella settled down, and the children were invited to ask questions of her parents.

"Does she slober when you hold her in your arms?" asked Jadzia Elrington, 7.

"Does she have teeth?" asked Nadman Ahmed, 8.

After her visit, the Countess called the program "a wonderful thing."

"To see how the children, as soon as she [Ella] entered the room, engaged with her was truly wonderful," she said.

The program, which was started in 1996, has close to 145 babies visiting about 25 per cent of Toronto District School Board's schools.

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Over the course of the school year Ella will visit the class nine times. Each visit will have a theme, such as crying and communication, aimed at teaching the students about nurturing and empathy.

"I hope they learn to identify how someone else is feeling, I think that's the key," said Heather Roberts, Ella's mom.

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About the Author
Education reporter

Kate Hammer started her journalism career in New York, chasing crime and breaking news for The New York Times. She came to the Globe and Mail in 2008 to do much of the same and ended up investigating allegations of animal cruelty and mismanagement at the Toronto Humane Society. More


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