APU Careers & Learning Environmental Online Learning Original

Earth Day 2021: A Time to Also Advance Humane Education

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Earth Day 2021 will be celebrated on April 22, a unifying day when people across the globe mobilize in the name of climate literacy and environmental restoration.

Since 1970, Earth Day has been an opportunity for people from every culture, ethnicity, and race to come together for a common cause: to increase awareness about the need to take care of the one world we share. Referred to as the modern environmental movement, Earth Day began as an inclusive and peaceful awakening on a national level that by 1990 found its way onto the global stage.

Start a master of education in teaching at American Public University.

Earth Day was inspired by the energy of students voicing their anti-Vietnam War sentiments. That gave Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin the idea in 1969 to channel that energy toward giving environmental issues a prominent place in the media. By teaching students and encouraging them to stand against the environmental destruction caused by oil spills, pesticides, excessive gasoline consumption, and loss of the wilderness, the movement gained participants and media attention.

Students played a key role in creating what is now the most widely observed secular commemoration in the world. With social media and worldwide digital communication, students and other environmentalists have the ability to speak out on contemporary issues and frustrations all the more effectively than they could in 1970.

What if Humane Education Were a Part of Earth Day and the Humane Education Curriculum?

But what if humane education was a part of the curriculum across disciplines, teaching empathy, compassion, and respect for all people, animals, and the environment? Humane education and Earth Day have interdisciplinary connections, being that targeted problems and solutions can be seen through the lenses of politics, religion, geography, arts, business, and more, which is the focus of courses such as EDUC200 Humane Education: A Global, Interdisciplinary Perspective.

Zoe Weil, co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE), is one of the world’s leading humane educators. One of the goals of the IHE is to communicate the need for teachers to include global ethical issues in their curriculum.

Weil believes that we should teach young people to be solutionaries who make choices that don’t contribute to problems but rather find ways to address them at their root cause. The theme of humane education is positive change that causes no harm. Humane education infusion could daily weave the concepts of Earth Day into every discipline, making humane treatment of people, animals, and the environment a lifestyle rather than a cause.

A common theme in education is that early intervention is vital for internalizing knowledge. Topics such as manners, social appropriateness, sharing, respect, and kindness are important concepts that should be taught at the earliest opportunity. These concepts must be reinforced in every classroom, on every playground, and in any home in which childhood behavior is overseen and expected to be transferable to any of these contexts and others.

An answer to creating a more peaceful, empathetic, and compassionate society is through education. If humane education were incorporated into the curriculum early on, every educated child would learn the importance and need to care for and respect all living things, including people, animals, and the environment. Environmental and climate literacy should not belong to a group but should be a national and international mentality. It should not be a movement, but a way of life.

Education Is a Field that Makes a Unique Contribution to Society

Education is a field that makes a unique contribution to society. Teachers are an invaluable resource for helping to effect change. They should be introduced to humane education through professional development training or college courses. Teachers could incorporate humane education into their lessons and prepare our future generations to be more environmentally, socially, and culturally competent, learning to have empathy and compassion for all living things.

From young learners to college students, educators can teach a more compassionate way of life, a way that becomes the common lifestyle.

If teachers incorporated humane education into their classrooms at an early age and continued to do so throughout their students’ education, these ideals would be reinforced and accepted as cultural and societal values and beliefs. We should not wait for college to introduce students to the modern environmental movement.

Earth Day Is an Opportunity for Teachers to Integrate Humane Concepts into Their Lessons

Earth Day is an opportunity for teachers to integrate humane concepts into their lessons. But how can humane education become a part of math, science, history, language, and physical education? It is not difficult to do. There are interdisciplinary methods to view humane education through science, sociology, history, technology, business, and social studies. Topics could include animal welfare, digital and media ethics, human rights, cultural competency and change, and wilderness and wildlife protection.

Let’s prepare students to come together on Earth Day and every day to celebrate the positive changes they are embracing that restore and care for our shared Earth and everybody on it.

Heidi Lockwood teaches in the School of Arts, Humanities & Education at American Public University. She holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Capella University. Heidi obtained her master's degree in educational policy and management and a bachelor's degree in Spanish from the University of Oregon. She teaches the undergraduate EDUC200 Humane Education: A Global, Interdisciplinary Perspective course, as well as graduate courses for the Teaching program.

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