40 Lessons and Activities on Animal Related Issues

animal lesson plans

We all know that children love animals, and that teaching kids about animal-related issues can be a great way to develop more caring and compassionate students. That’s why HEART, in collaboration with the ASPCA and IFAW, created this resource guide filled with 40 lessons and activities on issues like companion animal overpopulation, urban wildlife, endangered species, animal emotions, factory farming and animal testing. Youth learn about the topics, and find out how they can take action to make the world a better place for all life on earth.

This guide contains lessons for students in grades K – 12 (each lesson is aligned to the Common Core Standards) and activities that can be conducted both in school settings as well as more nontraditional out-of-school venues like community centers, libraries or camps.

Download Individual Lessons

It’s no secret that kids love animals. Engage their hearts and minds with these age appropriate lessons and activities that cover issues like companion animal homelessness, puppy mills, factory farming, habitat destruction, endangered species and so much more.

We have divided the lessons into four different age groups: K – 2, 3 – 5, 6 – 8, and 9 – 12. Each lesson has been aligned to Common Core Standards and all activities can be conducted both in school settings as well as more nontraditional out-of-school venues like community centers, libraries or camps.

HEART is currently creating a comprehensive resource guide that will include lessons on human rights, animal protection and environmental preservation issues.



Communication and Empathy
Students will analyze how dogs communicate. Students will develop the social skill of empathy by learning how to identify nonverbal cues of dogs and how to appreciate an animal’s perspective.

Companion Animal Advocates
Using role-play and engaging in pair and group discussions, students will learn that although all animals have similar general needs, companion animals need specific things in order to be happy and healthy.

Help Me Find a Home
Students learn that not all companion animals have homes, but that animal adoption centers and rescue organizations take care of homeless animals and work hard to find animals their forever homes.

Moo, Oink, Cluck
Students develop respect for farm animals by learning fun and interesting facts about them.

Urban Wildlife
Students will think about the wild animals who live in their own neighborhoods and consider some of the dangers that those animals experience every day. They will brainstorm ways to create safer habitats for urban wildlife.


Circle of Caring
Each student will share something s/he has done to help someone else or to protect nature and the students will create a symbolic circle of caring to show how we are all connected by our care for others.

Make A Puppy Face
Using various materials, students will create puppy masks and draw puppies’ needs on the back of the masks.

Happy Pet Environments
Students will create dioramas of indoor or outdoor scenes with companion animals and provide all the necessary items that need to be included for the animals to be safe and happy.

Catnip Toy and Dog Kong
ASPCA and HEART 4 Students create cat toys and dog treats to either keep for their own animals (or animals they know) or donate to a local animal adoption center.

Nonfiction Stories
Students will examine the interactions human beings have with wild animals and the consequences of such interactions. Through a nonfiction passage, students will learn about sanctuaries and the life of a tiger who was saved from a roadside zoo.

GRADES 3 – 5


Animals: It’s Their World Too
Students are presented with information (text, pictures, and video) about the lives of wild animals in their natural habitats and compare and contrast that with information about their lives in the circus.

Animal Communication
Students learn about the vocal expressions and body movements of wild animals and how they use them to communicate and express their feelings. The instructor will read a pre- written story and the students act out the appropriate vocalizations and body movements of the animals that correspond with various parts of the story.

Animal Investigators
Through discussion and participation in a role-play that involves investigating an animal neglect case, students will understand the importance of providing for an animal’s needs.

A Happy Home for Every Dog and Cat
Students will learn about companion animal overpopulation and homelessness as well as puppy mills and the conditions in which dogs are raised. Students will use a wide variety of resources to learn about these topics, including video, a math worksheet and discussing an individual dog’s story from homelessness to adoption.

Friends on the Farm
Students learn about the basic needs and natural behaviors of farm animals and compare that to what their lives are like on factory farms.

Wildlife Under Fire
Students work in small groups and each group reads a story about a specific animal and how the animal is affected by a specific environmental issue. The issues that are covered are: habitat destruction; pollution; climate change; poaching; and endangered species. Students consider ways to help protect these animals.


Circle of Compassion
Students create their own circles of compassion, using construction paper. Inside the circle they write and draw who or what they most care about and would stand up for if they were in need.

Helping Homeless Animals
HEART 43 Students read stories about animals who have lost their homes and consider what could have been done differently to prevent them from becoming homeless.

Clean It Up!
Students will be exposed to the detrimental impact of human beings on the ocean and its inhabitants. Students will participate in a service-learning project, cleaning up and logging the amount of plastic and non-plastic litter they find in a designated area.

Humane Message Stickers
Students brainstorm humane messages about kindness toward people, animals, and the planet. They choose a message and write/draw it on a sticky label to wear and promote their humane message.

GRADES 6 – 8


How Much is that Doggie in the Window?
Students will consider the differences between buying animals sold for profit and adopting animals from adoption centers by comparing descriptions of dogs up for adoption to ads of dogs for sale.

How Much Is the Cost of Care?
By assessing the cost of the care of a companion animal, students will recognize that part of the responsibility of animal guardianship is having the means to provide for the animal’s needs.

Don’t Test on Me
Students learn about animal testing, the types of tests that are conducted, and the animals who are tested on. They discuss how they feel about animal testing and then they learn about some specific products that are not tested on animals. Students work in groups and make commercials about their cruelty-free products.

Behind Closed Doors
Students learn about the basic needs, emotions, and natural behaviors of farm animals. Then they learn about what their lives are like on factory farms. Students imagine they are members of their state legislature and they have to decide how they will vote on a bill that will improve conditions for battery caged hens. They also have to write persuasive paragraphs defending their positions.

What’s Your View?
Students learn about animals and their natural habitats. They also discuss the human/ animal relationship and decide how they feel about specific questions related to our treatment of animals. They consider ways to make the world a better place for animals.


Puppy Mills Exposed
After being introduced to the topic of puppy mills through an educational video, students will dig deeper into the issue by comparing and contrasting various state laws as they relate to animal breeding.

My Story: How Did I Get Here?
Students will examine some of the many ways companion animals end up homeless and in animal shelters. Students will translate this new knowledge into creating a first-person point of view piece, which they will scaffold prior to completing.

Finding Your Match
After filling out a questionnaire about their lifestyles and the qualities they are looking for in their perfect companion animal, students will consider what animal they think would be a good match for them to adopt.

Humane Map
Students research different humane aspects of their neighborhoods (e.g., animal shelters, pet food stores, dog parks, veterinarians). Then they create local neighborhood maps to distribute with this information.

Humane Movie Review
Students review one of their favorite movies under the lens of whether the movie is “humane” or not. Using a guideline for what makes a “humane movie,” the students answer questions and write a movie review.

GRADES 9 – 12


Can Anyone Be a Hero?
Students examine what it means to be a hero. They are then asked if being a hero is exclusive to human beings and consider possible animal heroes. Finally, students are presented with a number of scenarios and asked how a hero would react to such situations.

Understanding Habitats
Students learn about the delicate balance of the combination of resources within a habitat and how wildlife becomes threatened if that balance becomes disrupted.

The Omnivore’s Debate
Students examine modern day animal agriculture (factory farming) and, after some reflection, debate the question “Should we be vegetarian?”

Clothing: The Tough Choices
Students examine the ethics behind the fur trade and the rationale for different attitudes toward the issue. To do so, students will begin by matching animals to the products for which they are used. This activity is followed by students taking on different personas and coming to a decision centered around the fur trade based on those personas.

When Does Animal Use Become Animal Abuse?
While examining the range of how humans use (and abuse) animals, students will consider which behaviors they deem acceptable, and “draw the line” at those they don’t.

Looking at the Root
Students will examine the root causes of oppression by considering the reasons and the ways that people have oppressed both people and animals. Students will also study the ways in which people have struggled to create a more equal and just world.

Standing Up for Animal Rights
Students discuss what it means to be an activist. Then students are presented with an animal welfare problem and consider an approach to creating a solution for the problem.


A Day in the Life
Students research a career that helps or involves animals and then they write a story about what someone’s life is like who has that career.

Attitudes Toward Animals
By examining and interpreting famous quotations about animals, students will consider how those perspectives have affected our attitudes toward animals. They will consider what their own philosophy is on the human/animal relationship.

Letter Writing
Students will learn that letter writing is a simple but effective tactic that can influence politicians and policy-makers to make desirable choices. It has been used in almost every modern social justice movement and can reap tremendous results.

Sign Up for HEART News

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 10.47.37 AM