Are you looking for some fun activities this Valentine’s that will also encourage your students to think critically about their choices? Below are five activity suggestions for bringing humane education to your classroom this Valentine’s Day.
1) Finding the Perfect Valentine’s Day Card
Today, holiday cards can be made with anything from 100% post-consumer paper to no recycled material at all and everything in between. Teaching your students about deforestation and the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling paper connects well with Valentine’s Day because it is a time that many people exchange cards. Bring in some old, store-bought cards, and show students how to look on the back of the cards to see how they were produced. This is a good opportunity to discuss terms such as ‘recycled’, ‘post-consumer recycled’, and ‘sustainably sourced’.
Activity #1: Provide an opportunity for your students to make homemade Valentine’s Day cards using crayons, glue, and recycled materials. There are lots of items students can recycle to make cards or heart shapes, such as cereal boxes, used manila folders, old newspapers, and magazines.
Activity #2: Using the same materials from Activity #1, your class can participate in DoSomething.org’s campaign to make meaningful Valentine’s Day Cards for older adults. It is a simple and fun activity that will help seniors feel thought of and remembered. As a special addition to this campaign, your students might be eligible to win a $3,000 scholarship for participating.
Activity #3: As a counter to the hate speech, Islamophobia, and Xenophobia that have been fueled in our current political climate, teach your students about universal human rights, inclusion, and respect for all. Afterwards, ask students to make a heart-shaped Valentine (using materials from activity #1) in honor of any group who they think is marginalized or has been treated unjustly, sending a message of love and acceptance to them. Then, create a “Love for All” wall, and display all the hearts for the rest of the school community to see.
Some sample messages are:
• “Happy Valentine’s Day, Love for All, No Borders”
• “Share the Love: Respect All Religions and Beliefs”
• “Love > Hate, Respect for All”
• “Love for All, #BlackLivesMatter”
2) Make it a Special Valentine’s Day for Our Animal Friends
Teach a lesson about respect and kindness towards animals (see suggested activities and lessons in our resource guide). Then, coordinate a service project for students to raise enough money by Valentine’s Day to “share the love”, and sponsor an animal from a local adoption center, wildlife rehabilitation center, or farm animal sanctuary.
3) What’s in that Box of Chocolates?
When we think of Valentine’s Day, we usually think of chocolate. While chocolate is a treat most people enjoy, there are hidden costs to people and animals. Use this as an opportunity to teach your students about issues related to child labor and slavery and the treatment of dairy cows on large-scale farms. As an alternative to conventional chocolate, consider treating your students to organic, fair-trade vegan chocolate. The Food Empowerment Project has a lot of information about this topic and an impressive list of recommended chocolates, based on extensive research into the most ethical companies. For older students, consider showing them the documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate, and discuss some of the consequences related to chocolate production.
For a healthier alternative to chocolate and sugary candy, serve your students a more nutritious snack that fits the holiday theme. You can either ask your students to bring in a fruit or veggie that reminds them of Valentine’s Day, such as apples, strawberries, raspberries, and red bell peppers, to share with the class or you can bring them in yourself. You might entice your students more by surprising them with fruits and veggies cut in heart shapes. They are easy to prepare and may encourage your students to enjoy healthy foods. An added benefit is that you can often find fresh, organic produce in little to no packaging, spreading love to the environment, too.
4) Giving Meaningful Gifts that Align to Our MOGO Values
In addition to cards, flowers and jewelry are popular gifts for Valentine’s Day. Not all flowers and jewelry are grown or made equally, though. Many of these items are produced in ways that may not align with our MOGO (Most Good Least Harm) values. Consider teaching your students about the reality behind both the flower and jewelry industries. After students learn about these issues, ask them to brainstorm some creative, personalized, and innovative gift ideas that will not contribute to human rights violations or exploitation of the planet and will save them money at the same.
Some ideas are:
• A personalized music playlist that you share with your Valentine
• A meaningful poem (a favorite or personally written) printed on recycled paper and put in a frame from a thrift store
• Pictures printed on recycled paper and made into a collage using repurposed cardboard as the background
5) Love and Friendship in Literature
Consider celebrating with humane literature that promotes love and respect for people, other species, or the planet. There are some great books about the beauty of love and friendship on our humane book list. Just a few of the Valentine’s-appropriate books from our elementary-age list are:
• Artie and Julie: Artie the lion and Julie the rabbit are both taught by their families that they are supposed to be enemies because of their differences, but when they meet, they only see a friend.
•And Tango Makes Three: A beautiful true story of two male penguins who love one another. They care for and hatch an abandoned egg and become loving parents, proving that, while not all families look the same, they all share an equal capacity for love.
• Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids: Youth learn about the value of building someone up by “filling up his/her bucket” with kindness. You could encourage your students to fill up the classroom with love by filling each other’s buckets.
If you use any of these suggestions, we would love to hear about your students’ reactions. We know many of you have your own ideas for teaching about a humane Valentine’s Day, too, so please share your own activities in the comments section below.
On behalf of everyone here at H.E.A.R.T., we wish you a very happy and humane Valentine’s Day!