Info For Teachers

Improving Attitudes and Interactions with Animals

Young people obtain knowledge and attitudes about animals from a variety of sources, including from their family, television, movies, books, art and even video games. These messages can influence a young person’s attitudes and behaviours towards animals. Information that is inaccurate or promotes inappropriate behaviour towards animals can weaken the bond young people have with animals and negatively impact animal well-being. 

In order to help build positive attitudes and relationships with animals, teachers can do the following:

Use students’ current knowledge of animals to promote more positive attitudes towards animals

Teachers can help students to differentiate between positive and negative interactions with animals. For example, engaging in activities such as analyzing a cartoon of an animal being completely unharmed despite being in a dangerous position can teach children to question misconceptions and learn to apply more humane techniques when treating animals in real life. See our tips on choosing animal-themed books for more ways to build knowledge and positive attitudes towards animals through books and other media.  

Foster empathy

Research has shown that empathy for others can increase if teachers focus more on similarities first and the differences later. Therefore, teachers are encouraged to include animals when talking about similarities between a child and others. By doing so, students can practice “perspective taking,” also known as cognitive empathy – the ability to put themselves into someone else’s position to understand what they are likely feeling or thinking. This can change how people perceive animals and promote positive interactions them.

Correct harmful behaviours towards animals and discuss animal sentience

If teachers witness a student handling an animal roughly, or not being kind to wildlife in the school yard, they should make sure to pull the student aside for a conversation. Teachers should indicate to the student that their behaviour was inappropriate and explain why, focusing on animal sentience, respect and perspective taking. For instance, if you witness students chasing rabbits in the school yard, ask them how they think the animals being chased feel, ask how would they feel if they were the rabbit? Reinforce that rabbits are sentient and have feelings, and deserve respect.

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