Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem.
A. A. Milne
Click image above to download the Common Needs matching game.
A Harvard Business Review article stated, "When it comes to empathy and compassion, the most powerful tool is a sense of similarity."1 While it is of the utmost importance that we encourage youth to appreciate and value diversity, uniqueness, and individuality, it is also invaluable to provide youth with opportunities to recognize the similarities they have with others. If a person takes the time to get to know someone else, no matter how different that person may seem, the two of them can always find a meaningful similarity and, through that commonality, they can develop an unexpected connection.
The same is true for our relationship with other species. Throughout history, people have often wanted to distinguish themselves from other species and identify ways that human beings are separate from the rest of the animal kingdom. However, the more we learn about other animals, the more we discover that many of the behaviors previously attributed to only humans are also displayed by other species. For this reason, it is imperative to provide youth with opportunities to learn about commonalities between people and other animals.
In our featured download, we have provided an activity that can be included in any lesson aimed at fostering empathy and care for animals. The document consists of pictures of common needs shared between people and animal companions. For the activity, simply print out the slides and cut each one in half. Pass out the pictures and challenge students to find the classmate who has the need that matches their own. (While the images we provided are of common needs shared between people and dog/cats, this activity can be easily modified by gathering pictures to represent common needs between people and any animals, including horses and other animal companions, farm animals, and wildlife.) After all the youth have found their match, discuss why the need is important to both people and animals. Utilize this conversation as an opportunity to foster empathy by asking youth to think about how animals might feel if their needs were not met. Then, continue the conversation to inspire compassion by discussing how people can respect and meet the needs of other species through their actions.
1 DeSteno, David. “To Make a Team More Effective, Find Their Commonalities,” Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2016/12/to-make-a-team-more-effective-find-their-commonalities, Dec. 2016.
Lesson: Ages 5-8
Companion Animal Advocates
Through role-play, engaging pair-share conversations, and group discussions, students learn that, although all animal companions have the same general needs, different species need specific things in order to be happy and healthy.
Lesson: Ages 9-12
Friends on the Farm
Students will learn about the basic needs and natural behaviors of farm animals. Based on what they discover, they will analyze and evaluate the living conditions of farm animals on factory farms.
Lesson: Ages 14-17
The needs of wildlife are discussed within the context of understanding the delicate balance of resources within a specific habitat. Youth will also learn how wildlife become threatened when that balance is disrupted.
Craft Activity: Ages 5-10
Happy Animal Environments
In this activity, youth create a diorama of an animal’s home, where the animal is surrounded by what s/he needs to be happy and healthy.
Are You Ready for Me?
by Claire Buchwald and Amelia Hansen
Through engaging text and pictures, authors Claire Buchwald and Amelia Hansen tell the story of two children interested in adopting a dog and a puppy, respectively. The dogs explain what their needs are and challenge the kids to decide if they are ready to be responsible animal guardians.
Call the Horse Lucky
by Juanita Havill
Juanita Havill draws attention to issues of horse welfare in this heartwarming book. A girl discovers a neglected horse, and her determination to help results in the horse being moved to a rescue ranch. Youth will learn about horse care and the importance of standing up for someone in need.
by Lynne Kelly
In this book, set in India, Lynne Kelly shares the story of a boy who goes to work as an elephant keeper under a cruel circus owner. He forms a strong bond with Nandita, an elephant in his care, knowing they must escape to the jungle if the elephant is to live freely and happily.
Copyright 2023 by HEART - Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers