Humane education is an approach to teaching that fosters empathy and compassions towards animals, people, and the environment. When we teach students to be kind, to show compassion and to be respectful to animals, not only does it have a positive impact on animals, it can improve society as a whole. Students can apply these character traits of kindness, compassion and respect to their peers and classmates which contributes to a caring classroom, school, and community.
Research suggests that humane education can lead to an increase in pro-social behaviours. In 2018, W.E. Samuels published one of the largest humane education studies to date involving more than 2000 Grade 1 and 2 students in China. After participating in three training sessions, teachers delivered the humane education program over ten sessions throughout the school year. The study consisted of student-centered activities that drew on the students’ experiences to promote care for animals, people, and the environment. The results of the study found that those who participated in the program showed significantly greater improvements in pro-sociality than their fellow students who did not participate. Students helping each other and cooperating leads to a caring classroom as well as positively impacts your classroom culture.
Humane education can build positive character traits. In a 2018, D. Crawford looked at the efficacy of the Alberta SPCA AnimalTales book lending program. Interviews were conducted with students, teachers, administrators, and parents after the teacher-led month long program to eighteen Grade 2 and 5 classrooms throughout Alberta. Evidence of new knowledge and understanding regarding empathy and caring for animals, people, and the environment was found. A grade five student noted, “You have to care about every living thing …if you are kind you are going to have a lot more friends and a lot more living things in your life like pets, plants, and people.”
Humane education can be incorporated in your teachings throughout the year using a number of different approaches. Below is a list of some of the ideas that can be found on everylivingthing.ca:
- A free book lending program designed to help foster empathy, respect, and a sense of responsibility for animals, people, and the environment. Through discussion questions and cross-curricular activities, a variety of concepts are address including: caring for animals, responding to peer pressure and bullying, and developing positive relationships. Available in grades K-6.
- Class Actions
- Class Actions are service learning projects that help animals, people, and/or the environment. These projects help students set goals, think critically and improve self-esteem all while making a positive impact in the community. Much like project based learning, students decide on how they are going to solve the problem put forward to them, then as a group they work together to complete the project. Class Actions also help promote a positive image of youth in their community!
- Character Education Poster Series
- Our yearly character themes come with grade specific discussion questions and activities, that are tied to the Alberta programs of study, designed to foster the annual theme. Kindness, responsibility, respect, compassion, and curiosity are themes covered in Character Education resources that help promote a caring learning environment.
Humane education can help to foster a caring community. By incorporating humane education into your teachings you are helping students develop positive character traits, such as: kindness, compassion, responsibility and respect, that they will then not only use in your classroom, but at recess, in their home, and their community for years to come.