By Dr. Kathleen J. Tate,
Department Chair, Teaching
Teachers are charged with the task of delivering curriculum to their students. But to be most effective, teachers should make sure to teach curriculum in meaningful ways that their students can relate to and apply to either their current or future lives—within and beyond the classroom walls. One way to make curriculum and learning more engaging, motivating, and relevant is to teach through humane education themes.
What is Humane Education?
The phrase humane education is often associated with humane societies and organizations that advocate for the appropriate treatment of children and animals. However, the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) explains that humane education instills the desire and capacity to live with compassion, integrity, and wisdom—while also providing the knowledge and tools to values into action in meaningful, far-reaching ways. Humane education focuses on issues related to animals, environment, and people.
Thus, the institute states humane education includes 4 elements:
- Providing accurate information (knowledge to face challenges)
- Fostering the 3C’s: curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking (tools to meet challenges)
- Instilling the 3R’s: reverence, respect, and responsibility (motivation to confront challenges)
- Offering positive choices and tools for problem solving (resources to solve challenges)
Humane education is important for teachers and curriculum specialists to understand. The idea is to develop students into citizens who are informed, passionate, responsible, creative, critical thinkers and problem-solvers. It is time that citizens understand the global nature of societal issues and care about people, environments, and animals both locally and in distant places.
For example, instead of teaching about verbs (language arts), graphs (math), and mammals (science) in isolation, a simple humane education lesson/unit can be created that incorporates those topics in an integrated, thematic, and authentic manner. If an elementary class chooses to do an awareness-and-outreach project about pet overpopulation and homelessness, the following can be covered:
Language Arts (verbs)
- Verbs can be explored in a context (e.g., help, assist, find, persuade, change, transform, need, live, choose, spay, neuter, adopt, eat, sleep, seek)
- Verbs can be applied in written projects (e.g., letters, posters, brochures, and/or blogs that bring awareness, persuade, inform, or cause change for pets in the community or beyond)
- Statistics and information about pet overpopulation and homelessness locally and beyond can be transformed into graphs (e.g., bar graph, pie chart, picture graph)
- Multimedia skills can be addressed as students create graphs for brochures and other products with computer tools
- Students can make analyses and comparisons of graphed data
Science (mammals and their needs)
- Examine basic needs: food, water, air, appropriate climate, and shelter and how those needs relate to pet overpopulation and homelessness
- Explore man’s impact on mammals’/pets’ basic needs
Who Should be Involved with Humane Education?
Humane education seeks to involve children, teenagers, and adults. One way to do this is through schools and teachers. Administrators, teachers, support staff, parents/caregivers, specialists, university professors, researchers, and district/state policy makers need to become informed and supportive. Further, humane education lessons and outreach projects prompt the perfect opportunity to:
- Invite local and virtual experts to the classroom
- Take face-to-face or virtual field trips
- Get more involved with life outside of the classroom.
Why Pursue Humane Education?
Students of all ages can make a difference in the world around them. Whether a classroom focuses on fundraising (e.g., sell classroom-made art for quarters and buy a piece of the rain forest to preserve it); awareness (e.g., create persuasive flyers and posters about local or distant issues such as poaching, hunger, or literacy); or action (e.g., plant a tree, start a school-wide recycling program, collect materials for earthquake or flood victims), it is time for students and citizens to be aware, passionate, and responsible. Moreover, why not make classroom learning relevant and purposeful?
Resources to Learn more about Humane Education:
- Institute for Humane Education Resources
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- ASPCA –Kids
- Children Helping Children, Intl.
- The Groundwater Foundation
- Green Teacher
- Kids’ Planet
- Polar Bears International
- Energy Kids
- Save Acres of the Rain Forest (World Land Trust)
- Earth Day Network
- Kids be Green
- Teens for Planet Earth
- Make a Difference Day