Do your kids light up when seeing an animal? Do they drag you to movies with feathered and furry stars? Do they beg you for a pet? Children’s natural affinity toward animals can be noticed as early as infancy. So, why not use this in helping your child learn?
What is humane education?
Humane education uses this child-animal connection to engage and motivate children and foster intellectual and emotional growth. Humane education is character education and teaching about kindness to animals. A recent study found that children love it!
Humane education incorporates lessons that focus on animal wellbeing. It is not necessary to have a live animal in the classroom or at home. Even the discussion about animals throughout new learning is enough to be motivating. Teachers can tap into young people’s fondness and interest in animals through humane education and use it as a catalyst for students to increase their overall compassion as well as learn more content.
As a parent, you are in the unique position both to use humane education at home, as well as advocate for it in your child’s school. There are tons of free resources to help you use animals to help your child with subjects that need to be reinforced at home. For example, math lessons about pet overpopulation teach multiples, readings on endangered species teach children about conflict and problem solving, and advances in testing for product safety allow for the exploration of the chemistry and technology behind animal-free testing methods.
How can humane education benefit your children?
Improve empathy and social emotional learning
When using humane education, children will become empowered to help make the world a kinder place. Humane education includes lessons about how people’s actions affect animals, exploring more broadly and compassion towards others. Teaching about kindness to animals awakens the empathy that helps children improve all of their interpersonal relationships.
Help reduce human violence
Children’s relationships with animals are seen by law enforcement as linked to their relationships with humans. According to Deputy Executive Director of the National Sheriff’s Association John Thompson, “If somebody is harming an animal, there is a good chance they also are hurting a human.” The National Sheriff’s Association advocated for the FBI’s tracking of animal cruelty in their crime statistics, which started in 2016. Humane education promotes prosocial behavior, encouraging students to take action against violence toward animals and others who are less empowered.
Connect more deeply with topics they’re studying
Try using animals to help your child connect to their curriculum. You may notice your son or daughter paying deeper attention and displaying more positive attitudes toward their learning. Children experience positive feelings towards animals. Positive emotions enhance academic performance whereas negative emotions undermine it. In other words, the positivity that children feel towards animals leads to a deeper connection and attentiveness to the topics they are learning and a desire to learn more.
Here’s how to make humane education part of your child’s learning.
Make it about the real world
Real-world application, also referred to as experiential learning, presents the opportunity for you to motivate and engage your son or daughter with challenging academic work. Children can debate with you, write letters, conduct fundraisers, and meet with politicians on animal-related issues of current events and legislation such as wild animal captivity or humane treatment of pets. Having children act on what they learn is particularly motivating, and their academic skills, as well as their knowledge of the topic, will hopefully improve as a result.
Engage your child through reading
Is your child a hesitant reader? Your local library may use a therapy dog as an audience for readers. Two organizations, the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and School Therapy Dogs are organizations that tout the benefits of dog visitation, including helping students who need assistance in managing their emotions. You can check to see if a therapy dog program exists near you. Additionally, you can check out the humane education bimonthly magazine KIND News. KIND News is a magazine that includes articles and games designed to encourage children’s empathy toward animals.
Take a trip to see animals
Humane education can include trips to visit animals in either their natural habitat or in an accredited sanctuary. The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries assists sanctuaries in reaching a high standard of animal care. They provide a list of sanctuaries you can access when planning a family trip.
Get in touch with your child’s artistic side
There are numerous eco-friendly art projects that both elicit children’s creativity and help animals. Building bird houses, bird baths, and planting flower gardens both help beautify your backyard and get your children off the iPad. Project FeederWatch is a wonderful opportunity for your child to help animals AND be a junior scientist. Participants count birds at their feeders and send their observations to scientists at the Cornell Ornithology Lab. Another great family project is building shelters for feral cats that live in the neighborhood, providing them with protection from the elements. Also, doing art projects with recycled materials gives you an opportunity to teach your child about how pollution harms wildlife and their habitats.
Use free resources
- The National Humane Education Society (NHES) provides lesson plans, activities for children, and a recommended reading list.
- The Latham Foundation has promoted humane education since 1918 and has a video library you can access with your child at home.
- Recognizing that young people are crucial in helping build a more compassionate and positive future, famed primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall developed the “Roots and Shoots” program in 1991. “Roots and Shoots” is a youth service program that allows your child to connect with other compassionate young leaders. To share with your child’s school, Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers (HEART) provides two free Common Core Standards-aligned resource guides.
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has a humane education division called TeachKind, providing grades PreK - 12 lesson plans, curriculum support, tools, and professional development webinars.
- You can access the Humane Society of the United States resources for parents and educators through this link
The resources mentioned above are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. One of the most comprehensive collections of humane education resources is the Humane Education Coalition (HEC) website. You can share the resources they include with educators of different grades and subjects in your child’s school. For example, Animalearn is a humane science education program. They also list numerous state-based animal protection organizations which you can utilize to arrange either visitation or at-home activities.
As a parent, you can harness the power of humane education to motivate your child to be a better student and a stronger fighter for a compassionate future.