by Kim Korona
At HEART, our mission is to develop a generation of compassionate youth who create positive change for animals, people, and the natural world. One of the ways in which we are working toward that goal is by developing free educational resources that make it easier for educators to infuse humane education into their classrooms.
The Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver, in collaboration with the Humane Education Coalition, is currently undertaking a research project to assess the state of humane education in K-12 schools across the United States. Researchers are conducting a survey that they hope will be taken by 2,500 educators. They are in the initial phase of distributing the survey and, to date, over 250 educators have taken it. The survey provides participants with this definition of humane education, coined by the Academy of Prosocial Learning,
Humane education encourages cognitive, affective, and behavioral growth through personal development of critical thinking, problem solving, perspective taking, and empathy as it relates to people, animals, the planet, and the intersections among them. Education taught through the lens of humane pedagogy supports more than knowledge acquisition, it allows learners to process personal values and choose prosocial behaviors aligned with those values.
With this understanding of humane education, the vast majority of educators (92%) agreed that humane education should be part of their school curriculum, though most had been unable to incorporate it directly. The main reasons expressed by educators for why they had not incorporated humane education concepts into their classrooms were lack of resources, time, and/or personal knowledge of the topics themselves. Not surprisingly, they also noted that what would be most helpful to them in overcoming these challenges is more resources that align humane education content to academic standards.
This study, while based on a small sample size at this point, offers encouraging evidence that educators are eager for easy-to-follow, engaging humane education lesson plans that are aligned to educational standards. As HEART is devoting a lot of effort into developing these resources, there are educators who are eager to utilize them and, together, we can achieve our mission.
Through our partnership with Nearpod, a one-to-one digital interactive presentation tool, we are offering humane education lessons that are easier than ever to use. These lessons are modified from our Humane Education Resource Guide and our Justice for All: Educating Youth for Social Responsibility educational resource guide, and are aligned to national standards. The lessons are created on slides (similar to PowerPoint) that the educator can project on a screen to lead the class while students follow along, step-by-step, on a laptop or tablet. The app provides opportunities for students to answer polls, read, listen to audio recordings, watch videos, participate in drawing boards, answer open-ended questions, and more.
Our Nearpod store currently has 14 free available lessons for both elementary and middle school students. These lessons cover a range of topics, including companion animal homelessness, climate change, factory farming, oppressive child labor, and water scarcity. Additionally, we created a culminating project-based lesson, Taking Action, so students can complete a service project after learning about several humane education issues through the other Nearpod lessons. To access our Nearpod store, visit HEART Nearpod. You can also access our lessons at Nearpod.com. Then, click on Explore Lessons and search for HEART Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers. Nearpod is just one of the many vehicles we utilize to provide humane education resources to teachers. We will continue our efforts to develop effective and engaging humane education programs, remove the barriers that hinder educators from bringing this essential content into their classrooms, and ensure that humane education is more accessible than ever before.