Featured IHE Graduate: Caroline Crane

A trip to the animal shelter more than 25 years ago started IHE M.Ed. graduate, Caroline Crane, on her path to humane living and humane education. Now she works to teach kids about compassionate choices as Vice President of Education for the Humane Society of Broward County in Florida.

Read Caroline's story about her experiences with humane education and IHE:

I wanted to do something special for my Dad for Christmas way back in 1984. His dog, Spot was his pride and joy, so I thought it would be neat to have her picture taken with Santa Claus. Santa photos also benefited the local humane society, which I knew very little about at the time.

I took Spot in for her pictures; as it turns out she was terrified of cameras and hid under the bed for days after her “Bad Santa” photo shoot! However, something amazing came from that day, and as I write this, it sends chills through my body remembering that pivotal moment in my life. At the event, they had a holiday wish list of things the shelter needed to care for the animals. I decided to bring over some newspapers and towels that weekend. I had never been to a shelter before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was thinking that maybe there would be a handful of dogs and cats who were lost.

Upon delivery of my items, I was asked if I would like a tour of the shelter. I didn’t know that tour would change my life forever. I saw hundreds upon hundreds of beautiful animals behind cage doors. Their eyes spoke to me, and I couldn’t get them out of my head. I had never known the seriousness of the homeless animal problem. I never did get them out of my head -- nor the eyes of any other innocent animal who is at the mercy of human beings. My heart was touched that day in a way I can’t explain. Since that day, my compassion and passion have grown, and continue to grow, every day.

Since 1994, I have been the Director of Education at the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I am very fortunate to have a job where I teach about what I love. The department has grown leaps and bounds and has blossomed into four wonderful staff members. Our  school programs, camps, clubs, tours and partnerships range from basic animal care, cruelty, puppy mills, safety, compassion, kindness and pet overpopulation. Just recently, an environmental segment has been added to our animal newspaper, and a whole day of camp has been designated to the environment…thanks to IHE!

A couple of years ago I was longing for more, to learn more, to teach more, to give more back.  I found the Institute of Humane Education and saw that they have a Master’s program. I looked into it, and after reading the program description, I found it was just what I needed. I knew that I was going to be a different person once I completed my degree. As I write this, I realize that decision was another pivotal moment in my life. I will never be the same. Because of IHE, I’m continually changing the way I live to be compassionate to animals, people and the environment. I continue to grow and change my programs as much as the Humane Society will allow me to in my position. I don’t know where life will take me, but I do know as a result of the decision to get my degree in humane education, I can feel in my bones that I’m going to make more of a difference than ever before.

Update as of April 2012:
…Since my graduation from IHE I continue to incorporate what I’ve learned into my daily life and into my career. I now compost and have planted fruit and herb trees through my yard. I also have expanded my teachings to incorporate all of the components of Humane Education. I have been promoted to Vice President of Education at the Humane Society of Broward County. Currently, I am trying to publish the children’s book I wrote, Sunny Side Up, as a result of my master's thesis. If I don’t find a publisher I plan to self-publish.

I highly recommend to anybody with a heart for this planet and all the creatures that inhabit it (including us) to consider getting this worthwhile degree. I’m so happy I did! 

Learn more about Caroline's work at Broward County in this interview with IHE from 2009.

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
You have read this article animal protection / changemakers / compassion / environmental protection / graduate programs / humane education / humane societies / IHE graduates / Social Justice / teachers with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/featured-ihe-graduate-caroline-crane.html. Thanks!

Humane Educator's Toolbox: Climate Challenge

Apropos to this election season in the U.S. and to all of us affected by global climate change (which would be all of us), is the BBC-created online game Climate Challenge.

As the President of the European Nations, you must “tackle climate change and stay popular enough with the voters to remain in office.” Players must determine which policies to choose for national, industry, trade, local and household categories, negotiate with representatives from other countries, while reducing climate change and maintaining relevant resources. 

Play Climate Challenge.

Check out other "games for change" in our Online Games resources section.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
You have read this article climate change / critical thinking / games for change / global warming / online games / politics / problem solving / students with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/humane-educator-toolbox-climate.html. Thanks!

Hold the Straw...and Other Tips for a Humane & Sustainable Life

Image courtesy of eschipul via Creative Commons.
For my blog post today, I’m sharing a recent post I wrote for One Green Planet, a website dedicated to ethical choices. Here’s an excerpt from "Hold the Straw...and Other Tips for a Humane & Sustainable Life":

"Almost every time I eat out these days, the ubiquitous glass of water comes with a straw in it. Although I’m in the habit of asking for my water without a straw, about 25% of the time, this request is forgotten, and I get the straw anyway. And it’s everything I can do not to let this seemingly small act impact my mood. I look around me at the people at my table, as well as at every other table, and try to do the math in my head. How much oil is procured to make just a day’s worth of disposable plastic straws? How many are then thrown out each day? What percentage are incinerated? Landfilled? Wind up in waterways?

I realize plastic straws are a tiny drop in the bucket of pollution, but they represent just one of the plethora of destructive habits that we unconsciously engage in daily."

Read the complete essay.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
You have read this article better world / consumerism / habits / mindfulness / Most Good Least Harm / plastic pollution / positive choices / straws / sustainability with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/hold-strawand-other-tips-for-humane.html. Thanks!

Humane Educator's Toolbox: Tomato Pickers Living on $20 a Day

When people talk about healthy food and food justice issues, they often speak about organics, or public health, or subsidies, or obesity, or even sometimes the impact on the environment and animals. Much less often, they talk about the impact of our food system on the agricultural workers, many of whom are people of color, are poor, are immigrants -- and who are often treated like slaves.

In a recent video (about 5 mins), Daniel Klein of The Perennial Plate talks with Lupe Gonzalo, who picks tomatoes in Florida -- and often gets paid about $20 a day. Watch the video:

The Coalition for Immokalee Workers (CIW) is working to improve the way farm laborers are treated. Right now they're campaigning for companies to agree to a penny-per-pound increase for picked tomatoes. Some companies have signed on, but others, like Chipotle, have resisted.

This video is a great springboard for introducing discussion about the conditions U.S. farm workers endure, and how the external costs of our food continue to be hidden.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.
You have read this article farm workers / food justice / human rights / humane education / Immokalee / Social Justice / teaching tools / tomatoes / videos with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/humane-educator-toolbox-tomato-pickers.html. Thanks!

NYC Workshop Helps Teachers Inspire Solutionaries

What is education for? How can we best prepare our students for the important roles they must play in meeting the challenges of today’s world? These are just a few of the important questions teachers will explore in this day-long workshop co-sponsored by IHE and HEART (Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers). The workshop is Saturday, April 28, from 8:30 am - 5 pm in New York City.

This professional development workshop is designed to help teachers bring global ethical issues into the classroom through innovative activities and approaches that enable their students to become conscientious choicemakers and engaged changemakers for a more humane, just, and healthy world. In addition to exploring and discussing the philosophical ramifications of our education system, teachers will gain a toolbox full of practical humane education teaching ideas, from activities about bullying and stereotypes to child labor and animal protection, to exploring environmental issues and the impacts of media.

The cost for the day-long workshop is only $75 through April 13 and $95 thereafter. Scholarships are available.

Find out more and sign up here.
You have read this article education / ethics / Events / global issues / humane education / lesson plans / professional development / Social Justice / solutionaries / systemic change / teacher training / teachers / workshops with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/nyc-workshop-helps-teachers-inspire.html. Thanks!

Humane Issues in the News

Each week we round-up the news you need to know about humane issues, from human rights and environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture, to activism, education, and changemaking.

'Bully' documentary to be released with no MPAA rating (via Education Week) (3/27/12)

Inside Walmart's Chinese factories (via Mother Jones) (March/April 2012)

"Ethics report on U.S. states gives failing grades" (via Ethics Newsline) (3/26/12)

The limits & opportunities of digital activism (commentary) (via NY Times) (3/25/12)

Curriculum helps students hone their citizenship skills (via Alternet) (3/24/12)

Death & disarray at America's racetracks (via NY Times) (3/24/12)

"U.S. Intelligence report: expect water wars soon" (via Common Dreams) (3/20/12)

"The ag gag laws: hiding factory farm abuses from public scrutiny" (via The Atlantic) (3/20/12)

Studies show chemicals in plastic linked to obesity, diabetes (via The Independent) (3/20/12) 

Israelis, Iranians use Facebook to exchange message of peace (via Haaretz) (3/19/12)

"History day helps students expand their lessons" (via Kitsap Sun) (3/19/12)

Study: "pediatricians' pain medication judgments affected by unconscious racial bias" (via UW Today) (3/19/12)

The challenge of protecting kids from household toxins (via NY Times) (3/14/12)

School-community partnerships that work (via Education Week) (3/13/12)

Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages. 
You have read this article activism / animal cruelty / bullying / changemakers / citizenship / education / ethics / factory farming / humane education / news media / peace / Racism / sweatshops / toxic chemicals with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/humane-issues-in-news.html. Thanks!

The Power & Pitfalls of Digital Activism

Image courtesy of
FindYourSearch via Creative Commons.
We've written before about the importance of making the most of our activism, and ensuring that we're empowering, rather than paralyzing others. David Carr of The New York Times has written an essay about the power & pitfalls of digital activism, which serves as a great reminder to us humane educators and activists to ensure that how we're spending our time working to create a better world is actually time well spent.

As Carr says, "In the friction-free atmosphere of the Internet, it costs nothing more than a flick of the mouse to register concern about the casualties of far-flung conflicts. Certainly some people are taking up the causes that come out of the Web’s fire hose, but others are most likely doing no more than burnishing their digital avatars."

We've seen that digital activism can have an enormous positive impact, and educating others about global issues is important, but if we're spending much of our time posting news stories and "liking" what others are posting, what kind of impact are we really having? As Carr says:

"... I have to admit I’m starting to experience a kind of 'favoriting' fatigue — meaning that the digital causes of the day or week are all starting to blend together. Another week, another hashtag, and with it, a question about what is actually being accomplished." 

Carr also talks about the differences in impact when our actions remain on the virtual field, rather than moving to the physical realm. One of the examples he mentions is the enormous virtual support for the documentary Bully, which has been given an R rating by the MPAA; such a rating means that  the youth who would most benefit from the film can't see it without their parents. But is signing a petition to change the rating to PG-13 enough participation? Carr says:

"Generally the way people express support for a film is by paying for a ticket. If Bully were seen only by the people who signed the petition, it would have a domestic gross of about $5 million. Food Inc., Inside Job and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, all major documentaries that landed with significant impact, never made it to the $5 million mark."

Read the complete essay.

With limited time and unlimited global challenges, we must carefully choose what we give our life energy to. Digital activism can be enormously effective, but we need to maintain mindfulness about how we engage online, what kind of impact we can expect from our online actions, and what mix of  virtual and in-person activism will be most effective.

 ~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.

You have read this article activism / digital activism / effectiveness / humane education / social change / social media with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/the-power-pitfalls-of-digital-activism.html. Thanks!

Human-Animal Studies Prize Offered for Undergraduates

For undergraduate students passionate about exploring research in human-animal studies, The Animals and Society Institute (ASI) and Wesleyan Animal Studies (WAS) are co-sponsoring an annual undergraduate prize competition.

According to the website:
"Papers can come from any undergraduate discipline in the humanities, social sciences or natural sciences, and must be between 4,000-7,000 words long, including abstract and references. The winning paper will be published in Society & Animals, a quarterly, interdisciplinary journal that publishes articles describing and analyzing  experiences of and with non-human animals. Topics can include human-animal interactions in various settings (animal cruelty, the therapeutic uses of animals), the applied uses of animals (research, education, medicine and agriculture), the use of animals in popular culture (e.g. dog-fighting, circus, animal companion, animal research), attitudes toward animals as affected by different socializing agencies and strategies, representations of animals in literature, the history of the domestication of animals, the politics of animal welfare, and the constitution of the animal rights movement."

Applicants need to be enrolled (either full or part-time) in an academic program at a university or college, or have graduated within 12 months of the application.

The deadline is August 1, 2012.

Find out more.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.
You have read this article academic journals / animal protection / animal rights / animal welfare / competitions / human-animal studies / prizes / students with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/human-animal-studies-prize-offered-for.html. Thanks!

Mark Hansen: Persuasive Writing for Real Life

In humane education, we talk about the importance of learning and teaching for real life. So much of what's taught in schools has little or no relevance to students' lives and to the global challenges we all face; humane education provides a lens for exploring and addressing these important issues, while gaining literacy in important skills. As Zoe Weil says in a recent article,

"Each day, [each student] should be learning that what she does matters, that the world needs her, that there are big problems, and... that she is able to make different choices and participate in creating positive, systemic change. She should know that when she learns math, she is being provided with the knowledge of numeracy in order to do amazing things in the world that can make things better. She should understand that when she learns science, a world of wonder and possibility is being offered to her and that her knowledge can be harnessed for great good. She should be taught that history is the gateway for understanding our past so we can build a healthier and more just future, and that literature is where we can uncover the deepest truths to guide our path toward meaning and integrity."

Recently, in Rethinking Schools Magazine, 3rd/4th grade teacher Mark Hansen wrote about the evolution of his teaching, when he realized that his teaching of persuasive writing was "an exercise, not a learning opportunity." He says,

"...it started to feel odd that my intentional teaching of persuasive writing was yielding relatively rote and flat results. For example, assigning my writers a persuasive letter on a given topic, like asking the principal to make school different—usually more recess—may have taught them some effective ways to make an argument and back it up with evidence and analysis, but it went nowhere, either with the principal or with the learning. ... Because both reader and writer perceived it as an empty gesture, there was a sad hidden lesson that writing is not an effective way to advocate or to make change.

I asked myself how I could shift my students from rote work on persuasive pieces to actually writing to persuade. How could I strike a balance between the passion of their concerns, the difficulty of writing well, and their fragile sense of power in the world? How could I juggle my goals for their growth as writers and as citizens? I wanted them to think about the change they wanted and to explore the best way to address it."

In his article, Hansen outlines the careful, thoughtful procedure he used to help his students learn the philosophy and skills of persuasive writing "from the inside out." Students began by exploring things they had learned from others -- especially the kind of "life lessons" they could apply to most any situation. Students also reflected on how what they learned shapes who they are and when they've taken action to help others or to speak out. Students then thought about what they want to teach others; as Hansen says, to have them "take a turn telling the world how things should be."

Read the complete article.

At the end of their weeks-long experience, students created a display in the hall showcasing their work. To accompany the display, the class added this statement:“We’re not just writing to change the world. We’re writing to change each other and ourselves. It’s about writing to change who we are in the world."

That's the kind of lesson we need for every student in every classroom.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.
You have read this article critical thinking / education / humane education / language arts / persuasive writing / problem solving / Social Justice / solutionaries / students / writing with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/mark-hansen-persuasive-writing-for-real.html. Thanks!

A Generation of Solutionaries

For my blog post today, I'm excited to share a recent article I wrote for Independent School Magazine. Here's an excerpt from "Solutionaries: Education for a Better World":

"While the mindset of politicians and the mainstream educational reform initiatives is that education ought to ensure that our students are verbally, mathematically, and scientifically literate and proficient enough to 'compete in the global economy,' many educators, when asked, answer this question about the purpose of education with more complexity, nuance, and vision. They want schooling to enlighten, engage, and inspire. They want the education their students receive to lead them toward lifelong learning and help them to be critical and creative thinkers and good citizens. They want to impart their particular passion — whether for literature, history, science, math, foreign language, or the arts — so that their students may also fall in love with a field of study that opens their minds and hearts and gives them the knowledge and tools to make a difference in the world."

Read the complete article.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
You have read this article critical thinking / education / education reform / global challenges / humane education / problem solving / schooling / solutionaries / systemic change with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/a-generation-of-solutionaries.html. Thanks!

One Small Step for a Better World: Start at the End to Get to the Beginning

Whether we're working on a major project or a small life change, it helps to map out a plan. But, often, the place to start isn't at the beginning; you start at the end. It’s important to be able to envision what you want your world (and your life) to look like so that you can create the steps to getting there.

Try this: Choose one goal – big or small – that you want to accomplish. It could be something in your own life, like finding a fulfilling place to volunteer, or eating more whole, sustainable, and humane foods; or it could be a project to benefit the larger community, such as hosting a global issues movie series, creating a humane education presentation to offer at a school, or successfully passing a city ordinance to tax plastic bags.

Once you’ve chosen your goal – what “success” looks like at the end of that particular process -- write it down on a big sheet of paper at the far right side. Now, step by step, work your way backwards. What are all the stages that have to happen before that goal can be reached (and obstacles to overcome), and what are all the little steps to reach each stage? You're creating a kind of flowchart that helps you visualize what has to happen to get from point B to point A.

Map your goal out from end to beginning, and leave space to add more stages and steps as you think of them. When you’ve mapped out all the stages and steps of the goal, start at step one -- something you can do today -- and keep going! (Note, this strategy is from the book Wishcraft by Barbara Sher.)

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.
You have read this article activism / change / changemaking / flowcharts / goals / personal growth / process with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/one-small-step-for-better-world-start.html. Thanks!

Mike Daisey's Lies Must Not Make Us Apathetic or Cynical

Image courtesy of Yutaka Tsutano via Creative Commons.
For my blog post today, I’m sharing a recent post I wrote for Care2.com, an online community for people passionate about creating a better world. Here’s an excerpt from "Mike Daisey's Lies Must Not Make Us Apathetic or Cynical":

"On January 18, I wrote “An Eighth Grader’s Letter to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook.” I had taught a week-long humane education course, and on the first day I had the students listen to “Mike Daisey and the Apple Factory,” a This American Life broadcast of monologuist Mike Daisey about his visit to the Foxconn factories in Shenzhen, China, where he interviewed employees making Apple products.
...this past weekend, I, along with millions of other people, learned that Mike Daisey had fabricated details in his story about his visit to China. This American Life devoted their most recent show to a retraction. I immediately contacted the teacher of the 8th graders to whom I’d offered that class in January. I knew I had to talk to them. But before I heard back from the teacher I received an email from Abbey, the girl whose letter I had published in Care2.

She had seen a Wall Street Journal headline about Mike Daisey’s fabrication and was shocked. She had remembered that I told the class not to believe me, and had generalized this statement as I’d hoped they all would so that she retained a commitment to critical thinking; but it was clear that she wondered who to believe. I feared that she – and others – would begin to become cynical and apathetic, a deadly combination that has the capacity to profoundly disempower us.

Read the complete post.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed. 

You have read this article accurate information / apathy / apple computers / credibility / cynicism / foxconn / human rights / humane education / ira glass / mike daisey / This American Life / trustworthiness / truth with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/mike-daisey-lies-must-not-make-us.html. Thanks!

Featured Activity: Earthly Adventures

It's so easy to take the natural world around us for granted and to forget how the different elements contribute to the health and well-being of all of us. Use this activity to help elementary-aged students think critically and learn about different aspects of the natural world. Take them on an "earthly adventure," following clues and trails to learn about how elements such as trees, soil and flowers help people, animals and the planet. Download Earthly Adventures. (pdf)

 ~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.
You have read this article activities / critical thinking / curiosity / education / humane education / lesson plans / natural world / nature / reverence / science with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/featured-activity-earthly-adventures.html. Thanks!

Zoe Weil One-Woman Show Debuts: My Ongoing Problems with Kindness: Confessions of MOGO Girl

Most everyone strives to be kind, but for most of us it's not in our job description. IHE's president, Zoe Weil, is a professional nice person who encourages people to do the most good and least harm for all. But like everyone else, Zoe has some challenges with kindness.

On Friday, April 13 at 8 pm, at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Zoe is debuting her one-woman show: My Ongoing Problems with Kindness: Confessions of MOGO Girl.

The U.S. debut of Zoe's show will be Thursday, May 10 at 7:30 pm at the Frontier Cafe in Brunswick, Maine.

The 90-minute show tackles important global issues in an entertaining format using personal stories about Zoe’s life and challenges living according to the MOGO principle to do the most good and the least harm to herself, other people, animals and the world around her.

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
You have read this article Events / global issues / humane education / humor / kindness / Most Good Least Harm / one-woman show / performances / zoe weil with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/zoe-weil-one-woman-show-debuts-my.html. Thanks!

Why We Need Humane Education: Cultivating Curiosity

Most young children have a hunger to know things. They're incredibly curious and well-known for asking "Why?" As one preschool teacher said, "I can't stop the curiosity of my students, even if I tried! They are two and three after all!!"

But, as one teacher emphasizes, cultivating curiosity in school is endangered.

In a recent blog post, high school educator Shelley Wright talks about the lack of curiosity her students bring to the classroom. Not because they're lazy; but, because "by grade 10, we've schooled the curiosity and imagination out of them."

She says:
"By the time I get my students in grade 10, it doesn’t occur to them to ask many questions. Certainly not to ask questions for which there are no 'real' or fast answers. Even in science, they don’t tend to ask why things happen. Why did that chemical reaction take place? What actually happened inside the test tube? Instead, they’re look for the correct answer to finish their lab.
My solution? It’s not an easy fix. I think, in the long run, it would be easier to try to prevent it from happening. But since that’s not something I can control, here’s what I’ve done instead.

I ask my students what they’d like to learn. How would they like our classroom structured? What should their education and learning look like? But here’s the caveat. Students who have little experience outside of a traditional education system, really have no way to think about it, except as such.

Sometimes we have to start with the negative. What don’t you like about your education and learning? Once we have this, I can ask. 'If you don’t like sitting and listening to lectures all the time, what might it look like instead?' In all honesty, this can be a really long process, but it’s vital to our students beginning to dream, probably for the first time, about what their learning can look like."

Read the complete post.

Fostering curiosity is one of the essential elements of humane education. Curiosity leads students to seek and verify knowledge, to explore, to question, and often to form deep attachments and connections with others, which often leads to positive action.

Most of our humane education activities offer elements to spark curiosity. Why do we treat different people (or animals) differently? What happens to our stuff after we throw it away? Who made my T-shirt and how were they treated? Why is our food so cheap?

Without curiosity we lack the motivation to learn more and to act, both of which are vital to the well-being of our students and our planet. We need curiosity. We need humane education.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.

You have read this article critical thinking / curiosity / humane education / learning / schooling / Teaching with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/why-we-need-humane-education.html. Thanks!

Normalizing Violence for Pleasure: Why a Political Scientist Stopped Eating Meat

Image courtesy of
Watershed Post via Creative Commons.
For my blog today, I wanted to share Mark Bittman's recent essay in The New York Times.

Bittman quotes political science doctoral candidate, Timothy Pachirat, who took a job in a slaughterhouse and worked there for five months: “'I didn’t get into this to focus on animal issues,' he told me, 'but my own relationship to eating meat has been transformed, and I now forgo it altogether. It’s just not worth the pleasure when you know the system.'”

I especially appreciate Pachirat’s use of the word “pleasure.” Words matter. With that simple word choice, Pachirat reminds us that we eat animals to please our tastebuds, not because we have to.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
You have read this article animal agriculture / animal suffering / animal welfare / eating meat / industrial agriculture / Mark Bittman / slaughterhouses / violence with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/normalizing-violence-for-pleasure-why.html. Thanks!

Making Amends: Some Schools Trying Restorative Justice as Alternative to Traditional Punishment

Image courtesy of
butupa via Creative Commons.
Albert Einstein said "The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them." According to a recent article by our friends at Greater Good, the San Francisco school district, despite budget challenges, is experimenting with a new way to deal with behavior problems that doesn't automatically set students up on the school-to-prison pipeline: It's called restorative justice.

As the article says:
"Instead of being kicked out for fighting, stealing, talking back, or other disruptive behavior, public school students in San Francisco are being asked to listen to each other, write letters of apology, work out solutions with the help of parents and educators, or engage in community service. All these practices fall under the umbrella of 'restorative justice'—asking wrongdoers to make amends before resorting to punishment."

As Tony Litwak, director of the former Peer Courts program in San Francisco says, it's a complex process in contrast to the “easy and short punitive system that’s in place now." From the article:
"[Litwak} said that students 'who do enter the traditional justice system never answer to their peers and are almost always advised by their attorneys to not discuss the incident. They are also denied the ability to apologize and make amends to victims and their family members.' Part of the reason the process took so long, he said, is that it tried to build the empathy, compassion, and community that might strengthen the student and the school.

'Nobody is letting anybody off the hook,' [Kevin] Kerr [principal at Balboa High] said. 'Whenever we have one of these restorative justice sessions, the perpetrator inevitably walks out of the room crying. That’s not our goal, but it’s just natural. We’re human beings, we’re going to have a sense of compassion for this person that we harmed, once we have a chance to see how our actions made them feel.'"

While results are mixed, mainly due to funding problems, in general, studies show that restorative justice works for many situations.

Read the complete article.

When suspensions and expulsions continue to skyrocket and recent studies show that students of color are disproportionately punished, and with a continued focus on a punitive anti-bully (instead of pro-hero) school culture, such creative methods that encourage students to talk to each other and make amends, that focus on looking for a solution, that treat everyone involved as people, and that set up reparations unique to each situation are an important option.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.

You have read this article alternative discipline / education / empathy / expulsions / justice / Most Good Least Harm / punishment / restorative justice / school-to-prison pipeline / schools / student behavior / suspensions / systemic change with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/making-amends-some-schools-trying.html. Thanks!

Airing Out Our Dirty Laundry: 3 Top Tips for Greening Your Clothes Washing

This post is by contributing blogger Daniella Svoboda Schmidt, an experienced public school master teacher, a graduate of our M.Ed. program, and a humane educator. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband and son.

After writing about the entire lifecycle of a cotton T-shirt, from cotton bud to landfill, I was reminded of how much personal power we have to make conscious clothing choices. Truth be told, we all have dirty laundry to air out-- no matter how clean it looks. Most of our wardrobes, thrift store treasures, or designer duds probably passed under the quick fingers of women, men, and children toiling in inhumane sweatshops, paid slavish wages, and living in the most disadvantaged countries of the world. Once made for a cheap price, our clothing will be shipped thousands of miles to our local retailer leaving a big carbon footprint piled on top of the already atrocious mountain of human rights violations

As concerned, compassionate citizens, our everyday choice to buy non-sweatshop-produced clothing to ensure a living wage and humane working conditions for garment workers makes a big difference. We can also bag second hand bargains to opt out of supporting slave garment labor while simultaneously lightening our impact on this planet's resources and on our wallet. However, how we care for our clothes while we own them is the most potent opportunity for doing good, specifically in conserving our planet’s precious resources.

A study by Proctor and Gamble demonstrates that between 75% and 80% of our clothing’s impact occurs when we launder it. Washing our clothing in warm or hot water, and drying our clothing in the dryer (a topic for my next post!) requires massive amounts of energy and water. Check out the stats for yourself. So, by becoming informed about how to responsibly care for our clothing, we can do the most good and the least harm and still get our clothes super clean.

Here are my 3 top tips for greening your laundry:

  1. Do LESS clothes washing!
    That’s right—only wash what is actually dirty instead of throwing that t-shirt or (gasp) pair of jeans in the laundry basket after just one wearing. 
  2. Use environmentally friendly vegetable based detergent.
    Eco friendly soap biodegrades quickly, has no phosphates, and still gets our clothing clean. But it also respects our water and waterways which we and so many other forms of life depend upon. And ditch the toxic, scary, chlorine bleach and go with an oxygen-based bleach or a homemade brew to get your clothes white without the fright.
  3. Invest in a high efficiency clothes washer.
    Recently, as consumer eco-awareness blossoms and our government supports resource conservation with rating systems like Energy Star, high efficiency washers have made big waves in the clothes washing industry. Investing in a high efficiency washer pays for its higher sticker price quickly saving $550 a YEAR in operating costs. That means that in just two years, the benefits of going high efficiency will pay for almost any energy saving washer!
So what do we do with our energy slurping older washing machine?  Recycle it properly so that its usable parts are reused and kept out of the landfill. For general information on recycling all kinds of appliances, please see Earth 911.

Consider that the average U.S. household does a whopping 400 loads of laundry a year. As informed consumers, laundering responsibly helps each of us do our own part to air out our laundry. Instead of laundry being a mundane chore, we can do less of it (hooray!) and do it with an eco-conscience that transforms it from household work to an act of love and respect for the world we share and brightens the future for us all.

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.
You have read this article clothes washing / clothing / conservation / consumerism / efficiency / environmental protection / human rights / laundry / Most Good Least Harm / savings with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/airing-out-our-dirty-laundry-3-top-tips.html. Thanks!

The Power of Kony 2012 & What It Means for Our Future

For my blog post today, I’m sharing a recent post I wrote for One Green Planet, a website dedicated to ethical choices. Here’s an excerpt from "The Power of Kony 2012 & What It Means for Our Future":

"As I write this more than 70 million people have watched a 30-minute video, uploaded less than a week ago from the group Invisible Children, about Ugandan Joseph Kony’s atrocities.... What interests me, and what I think is worth reflection, is the phenomenon of this film itself. This is not some funny 1-minute YouTube video that’s gone viral. It’s a thirty minute documentary about a war criminal in Africa whom few have ever heard of. When one thinks of all the people perpetrating atrocities in the world, why did a video about Joseph Kony go viral, and, more importantly, why does this matter?

The film itself is masterful. It’s about good guys and bad guys; innocent children who need rescuing, and innocent children who want the bad guys punished. It leaves the viewer in tears, but then it gives us something to do. The action plan is clear, simple, and doable: spread the word, make Joseph Kony famous, participate in an urgent (and time-limited) campaign, and Joseph Kony will inevitably be stopped and the abducted child soldiers returned to their families.

The real brilliance of this film’s message is revealed toward the end when a graphic of a pyramid depicting the movement of power, from the moneyed and government elite at the top, to the institutions below, to the people at the bottom, is inverted and the people – us, those who use and share social media and harness the voices of millions – begin to influence the actions of the moneyed and government elite. The very fact of this video’s viral success proves its point. We citizens, at home with our computers, can wrest (at least some) power back and make important and good things happen through our voices."

Read the complete post.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
You have read this article campaigns / child soldiers / human rights / Invisible Children / kony 2012 / solutionaries / systemic change / videos / viral videos with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/the-power-of-kony-2012-what-it-means.html. Thanks!

Apples to Kindness: A Lesson for Pre-schoolers

What does treating an apple nicely have to do with learning about kindness? A lot, if you're a pre-schooler. Teacher and Teaching for a Positive Future online course participant, Donna Sabia Marino, introduced her young students to the power our words have over others using a humane education activity called Two Apples. We wanted to share what Donna wrote about the experience:
"Today I had the 3 year olds sit in their circle, and I first spoke about how words make our hearts and our inside feel. I used some examples: "I don't want to play with you, go away." to talk about how we felt. Then we went on to other examples: "Let's sit together in free play," or "I will share my book with you." They decided that their insides and heart felt happy after hearing nice words.

For the Two Apples activity, I demonstrated saying something mean to the apple and dropped it on the floor. As we went around the room some of the children (2 out of 10) didn't even want to participate in that exercise because "it was mean." Now, of course there was one who really smashed the first apple on the floor. No one thought this was funny, though. As we got to the apple that was whole, everyone kissed it or said something nice or rubbed it. It was amazing to observe; every one of them was fully engaged during this whole lesson. When I showed them the bruising, and even spots where pieces had come off of the first apple and said that that is what our words can do to the insides of our friends, there was silence. We cut open the second apple and looked at how beautiful and bright its insides were. The students then wanted to eat it!!!

I told them that we would be putting the first apple into our compost bucket, so that it would not be wasted. This was a great lesson, and the amount of time was perfect for my 3 year olds. I would like to ask the other teachers at my school to try this with their classes and see what happens."  

Donna has plans to expand the activity so that her students can reflect on their treatment of animals, as well.

Note: Recently one of our supporters wrote in about this activity and highlighted that it may need to be further adapted in situations where students struggle with food security. One possible adaptation could be to use something like a flower with an especially beautiful center; something like a flower would still show abuse when mishandled, and the other flower would stay beautiful & have the beautiful center that reflects the purpose of using the apple.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.  
You have read this article empathy / humane education / kindness / lesson plans / power of words / pre-school with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/apples-to-kindness-lesson-for-pre.html. Thanks!

Are You Paralyzing or Empowering Others: 6 Tips for What to Share & How

As I scroll down my Facebook wall, I skim across a horrific image of cruelty that someone has posted, with a caption that merely says "This has to stop!" and no other information. The image is so traumatizing that I quickly skip by it, and even consider hiding that person's posts from view. Right there was an important opportunity missed. The person who shared that image clearly has a compassionate heart and wants to help stop suffering and cruelty. But not only was the image posted so difficult to look at that I immediately turned away, there was no information about whom to contact or any ideas about how to help.

How often do we as humane educators, activists, and concerned citizens share graphic or despairing information with others, ourselves shocked by the horror and wanting to inspire others to take action, but stop short of providing a way for people to take action? Every time we do so, we're missing an opportunity to inspire and empower others to become positive changemakers, and are potentially contributing to them shutting down and closing their minds and hearts. When we offer accurate information and educate others about the challenges of our time, it's important that we do so mindfully. Here are 6 tips to help you consider what to share and how.

  1. Decide how graphic is appropriate.
    Sometimes it's perfectly appropriate and necessary to share graphic images, video, or information. But the audience and circumstances have to be right. For example, college-age students tend to be more open and responsive to graphic images. If you're sharing footage from an undercover investigation, that can be very useful. But we don't want to traumatize people so much that they can't or won't act. We have to ask ourselves: Who is our audience? Might young children see/hear this? What is our goal in sharing this information? Is this more likely to make people want to act or cause them to turn away? Have I struck the right the balance between engaging people with the issue and not making them shut down?

  2. When possible, frame the issue so that it's "graspable."
    Sometimes you just want people to know that an issue exists. But whenever possible, work to reframe an issue you want to share about so that people can feel connected to it. For example, don't just talk about the horrors of poverty or child slavery; tie it to a story you read about one person's experience and how that person was helped, or relate it to what's happening in your own community.

  3. Give context.
    Most issues are complex, and it can be misleading if we only give a simple black and white explanation. When possible, give context. If you're concerned about, say, the poaching of elephants in Cameroon, don't just talk about the horrors of so many animals being killed; also talk about why the poachers are killing elephants and why villagers are helping them; talk about what's already being done to address the issue and what options are available for doing the most good and least harm for all.

  4. Give them resources to help them find out more on their own. Especially when you only have a few moments with someone and don't have the opportunity to provide much context or detail, be sure to offer resources to help people find out more on their own. Let them know who's working on the problem and who can provide them with more information that's accurate and credible (and that leads to positive actions they can take).

  5. Provide them with specific, realistic, actionable ideas.
    What do you want them do to about this issue? If the most effective action is for them to write a letter, then provide them with the correct contact information, and perhaps even some talking points. Especially when it's a complex, global problem that seems insurmountable, it's essential that we offer specific, concrete (and hopefully convenient) ideas for taking positive action. Providing information without providing the means to do something about it only engenders feelings of helplessness and apathy.

  6. Offer to collaborate with them.
    It's easier to act when we have support, so when appropriate, offer to collaborate. Sponsor a letter-writing party (virtual or in person) if that's the most effective action. Work together to get the law passed or change the system or develop the policy. Or, if you can't work with them, point them toward someone who can.
It's not always realistic to do all this, but we can at least bring mindfulness to what we're sharing and how, and ask ourselves questions like: Am I sharing this just so that I'm not alone in feeling pain about this horrific thing, or will sharing this actually help the situation? Have I helped make it easier for people to do something about this other than feel despair or disgust? Am I going to leave people feeling paralyzed, or empowered?

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.  
You have read this article accurate information / activism / empowerment / helplessness / humane education / mindfulness / Most Good Least Harm / problem solving / trauma with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/are-you-paralyzing-or-empowering-others.html. Thanks!

Humane Education Prepares Students Better

Image copyright Institute for Humane Education.
Recently, a participant in the Institute for Humane Education's online course, Teaching for a Positive Future, shared her experience of showing my TEDx talk on humane education with her twelfth graders at a college preparatory private school. While the students liked the talk, they wondered if such an education -- one that focuses on learning about relevant global issues and becoming critical and creative problem solvers for a better world -- would be preferable to the curricula they were used to. Was it "academic" enough?

About a year ago, an administrator at another prep school said that his faculty, after reading one of my essays on humane education, was concerned that if they embraced a humane education vision, they might not meet the expectations of parents and students alike, who are seeking acceptance at elite colleges, which, they believe, is secured by taking AP courses and following the standard curricula that colleges expect from their applicants.

I found these responses to humane education terribly dismaying. Not only is it worrisome that people might not consider learning how to be a conscientious choicemaker and engaged changemaker for a more just, healthy and humane world important enough to embrace wholeheartedly, but it is also my experience that humane education actually prepares students better than traditional curricula. Humane education demands much of our students: that they rigorously investigate the truth of statistics and information; that they critically evaluate everything (even what their teachers say); and that they not regurgitate memorized facts or argue a single side of an issue, but use their knowledge and skills to develop creative solutions to complex issues. Moreover, humane education invites real world engagement, and in the real world it actually matters how well you express yourself in writing or speaking, or how fully you develop a cost effective plan to improve some aspect of your school or community.

For example, I recently asked an 8th grade class to listen to a This American Life episode about the production of Apple products in China, and then to write letters to Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, expressing their concerns. I helped them to understand that this letter to Tim Cook had to be good, because it mattered. It had to be respectful, clear, well-written, heartfelt, thoughtful, organized, and to the point. This was a demanding assignment, and they told me the next morning how much time they spent on their letters. And it showed.

Tim Cook has since written back to the class, which has been diligently following the news of Apple's increased attention to unjust and inhumane conditions in the factories that produce its products. These students have gotten to experience the power of their voices directly. Humane education has asked much of them, and the results -- both in their work and in the real world -- have been significant. They have learned to care about others far removed from themselves, they have learned to voice that care and their ideas, and they have learned that their voices can have a positive effect.

While we and our kids may want the opportunities that elite colleges provide, it's important that we not buy into inflexible systems of schooling in our pursuit of some imagined future success. My guess is that great colleges would actually like nothing more than to read applications from students who've made a difference in their young lives; who have tackled real world challenges and learned what it takes to succeed in creating positive change; who have decided that taking AP course after AP course is not necessarily the path to a better education; and that engaging in relevant real life issues helps them acquire the practical and theoretical skills for a truly successful future.

It's sad that some think they're taking a risk by embracing humane education enthusiastically and making it the core philosophy of schooling when the real risk is the one we are taking every day: that we don't choose to make raising a generation of engaged solutionaries the highest goal of our schools.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.  
You have read this article academic standards / apple computers / changemakers / critical thinking / education / global issues / humane education / problem solving / real world learning / schooling / solutionaires / students / systemic change with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/humane-education-prepares-students.html. Thanks!

Pondering Plastics: Resources to Help you Learn. Act. Teach.

There's no question that plastic is convenient. But as we learn more about the impact of plastic and plastic waste on people, animals, and the planet, it's clear that, at least for disposable plastics like bags and bottles, we can find alternatives that do more good and less harm. Here are several sample resources to help you increase your plastic prowess, take action, and teach others.


  • 5 Gyres offers a comprehensive overview of the plastic pollution issue, as well as videos, research, lesson ideas, and ideas for action.
  • Green America recently featured plastics in a special issue of their magazine. Articles include tips for ditching single-use plastics, information about recycling certain kinds of plastics, and what you need to know about the safety of conventional and bioplastics.
  • The Plastic Pollution Coalition has collected more than 30 TEDx talks from the 2010 Great Pacific Garbage Patch event. These talks offer a variety of insights & suggested solutions for dealing with the plastics problem.
  • Bag it is an award-winning documentary that explores the ubiquitousness of plastic in our lives and some of the impacts of all this plastic.
  • Tapped is an award-winning documentary that offers an examination of the big business of bottled water.


Smaller Steps:

Bigger Steps:

The Plastic Pollution Coalition, which is an alliance of people and organizations working to "stop plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals, and the environment," offers resources and suggestions for helping make your community a "plastic-free town."


  • Whale's Stomach helps students (grades 4-8) learn about the impact of our "throwaway" society by exploring the different kinds of (mostly plastic) trash found in a whale's stomach.
  • Use the True Price activity (grades 6 & up) to explore the positive and negative effects of various plastic items (e.g., water bottles, toothbrushes, etc.) on people, animals, and the earth  
  • Synthetic Sea is a great 10 minute video that describes marine debris research done by Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. It's especially useful for science courses.
  • Although it's helpful if you see the documentary Bag It!, you can still adapt these lesson plans that are organized by these topics: single-use disposables, waste and recycling, oceans,  human health, and activism.
  • Chris Jordan's photos of Albatross bodies full of plastic are a graphic testament to the impact of plastic waste on other beings and a great discussion starter. (Chris and his wife are also involved in a Midway media project to increase awareness about the devastation and suffering all this plastic is causing the birds on Midway.) 
~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.  
You have read this article activism / consumerism / critical thinking / Great Pacific Garbage Patch / humane education / lesson plans / plastic gyres / plastic pollution / plastic waste / problem solving / systemic change / teaching tools with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/pondering-plastics-resources-to-help.html. Thanks!

Starting From Scratch: 10 Questions for Humane Educator Karen Patterson

IHE M.Ed. graduate, Karen Patterson, has brought her classroom teaching skills and humane education training to bear in her new job as the humane educator for the Humane Society of Huron Valley in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In her first few months on the job, Karen created a whole new humane education program from scratch. Karen talked with us about her experiences in her new role. 

IHE: What drew you to humane education?

KP: About five years into my teaching career, I began to realize that working with animals and caring for our environment was just as big a passion for me as educating children. I knew that I wanted to somehow integrate them, but wasn’t sure how. After learning about humane education, I knew that I had found what I had been looking for.  Humane education allowed me to take my love of teaching children and combine it with my passion for animal welfare and environmental preservation. I was drawn to the fact that humane education could be easily implemented into any classroom and that it could be adapted to include people of all ages. Most of all, I enjoy that humane education not only gives people information, but also gives people the knowledge and resources to make more compassionate choices in their lives.

IHE:  You recently became the first ever humane educator for the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV). What has it been like to start a humane ed program from scratch? What kinds of resources and partnerships did you use to help you get started?

KP: First, I would like to say that I feel so fortunate to have begun a humane education program at such an amazing organization. The team at HSHV has helped me immensely, and all of them have been so supportive of my programs and initiatives. That said, it is so great to have an opportunity to take the wonderful programs that they already had in place and add an additional humane education component. Starting from scratch allowed me to really evaluate what is needed the most in our community and to design programs that complement the pre-existing ones. I talked with several humane educators across the country about their current programs and discussed with them what they have found to work well.  I also researched quite a few curricula, lessons, and materials, and became as involved as I could in humane education workshops and professional development. I used a lot of my background knowledge from my 10 years of public school teaching and the knowledge I gained through the Master’s program at IHE and the Certified Humane Education Specialist (CHES) program at HSUS. Through all of this, I was able to develop humane education programs for each age group at the shelter.  It was, of course, challenging to get the programs planned, organized, and implemented but seeing the increase in youth involvement at our shelter in just seven months has been so amazing!

IHE:  HSHV offers numerous programs. Which are your favorites?

KP: That’s such a hard question to answer because I think each one holds a unique quality that makes it special and enjoyable for me. I think that our Camp PAWS program for ages 7-11 is always a lot of fun for everyone involved. We offer the camp during the summer as well as during the two week holiday break in December. Camp PAWS is a mixture of humane education lessons, time with shelter animals, crafts and game time, field trips, guest speakers, and reverence building activities. My favorite part of the camp is watching the children develop a bond with some of our shelter animals throughout the week. We keep track of who is adopted that week and there is always so much excitement when an animal they know has found their home! 

Our Junior Volunteers Club (J.V. Club) is a program that is unique to this area. It was co-developed with our volunteer coordinator, Brittany Keene, and the support of our staff and volunteers. This program was designed for ages 12-17 and allows youth in this age group to become official Junior Volunteers at HSHV. They attend six hands-on training sessions that incorporate humane education lessons, volunteer training, work with mentor volunteers, and volunteering practice. Each J.V. Club participant is paired up with a mentor volunteer, and it is always wonderful to see the relationship and team building that takes place between the participants, the mentors and the staff. The positive qualities of the participants are always our main focus, and we love to see the confidence and compassion that our Junior Volunteers develop throughout the program. We are really excited to be one of the only shelters in the area that has a specific volunteer program for this age group.

One great thing about both of these programs is that they give me an opportunity to maintain ongoing teacher/student relationships with youth, which is something that I sometimes miss about working in a classroom.

IHE: I love that one of your programs is for toddlers. Tell us the kinds of work you do with them and what your goals are.

KP: Our Little Paws Story Time program is always one of the highlights of my day! There is something so special about working with very young children who are so excited about everything! Little Paws invites children and their families to come into the shelter and spend some quality time together learning about and interacting with animals. The main goal for this program is to help build reverence in the children by allowing them to explore and learn about all different kinds of animals. Each storytime has a specific theme, and children engage in stories, songs and finger plays, animal interactions, crafts, and activities that teach them about the importance of showing compassion toward all animals, humans, and the environment. This not only familiarizes more of our community with the great programs we have available, but it begins to instill values of compassion and empathy in children at a young age. Of course, no child leaves without getting some kisses and cuddles from one of our adoptable animals!

Karen Patterson talking to girl scoutsIHE: How have students and the community reacted to your humane education programs?

KP: The support and enthusiasm for the humane education programs has been overwhelming (in a great way!). I feel that this is something that has been needed in our community for quite some time. The support of our staff, volunteers, and community has been amazing, and I can’t wait to see our humane education programs continuing to grow!

IHE: Most humane education departments connected to humane societies focus on teaching about companion animal issues. Is that the case at HSHV, or do you try to teach more comprehensive issues?

KP: One of the biggest beliefs at HSHV is that nothing is just an “animal issue.” We discuss all the time how animal welfare issues relate back to concerns for human health, happiness, and safety, as well as environmental preservation. Therefore, when teaching about animal welfare, I always incorporate more comprehensive issues into the lessons. I think it’s very important for people of all ages to understand how we are all connected and how our actions affect many living beings.

IHE: What are the biggest animal protection challenges in your community?

KP: One challenge that we face in our community is the over breeding of animals, most commonly Pit bulls. Because of the over breeding, we have so many Pit bulls that come into our shelter needing a loving home. We love working with and caring for our Pits, but unfortunately many people are leery of adopting a Pit bull, which can lead to shelter overcrowding. We work very hard to educate the public about Pits and to overcome the myths that are surrounding these breeds. We also work very hard to educate the community on the importance of spaying and neutering all animals in order to help with the overpopulation issues. In our area, we also see a lot of feral cats. We have many rural areas in our community and our TNR (Trap Neuter Return) Coordinator, Kathryn, is working endlessly to help vaccinate, spay, and neuter the feral cats in our community. Due to the poor economy, we have also seen an increase in the number of animals who are being left behind in homes and apartments. We offer several programs to help people to provide food for their animals in a time of hardship, but we still have many residents that, for whatever reason, leave their animals behind.

IHE: You used to teach in public schools. How have those experiences influenced or helped your work as a humane educator?

KP: My experience working in public schools has helped me immensely! First, I am familiar with teaching youth of all ages, which makes it easier to interact with, manage, and teach students in classrooms and in our shelter programs. Also, my experience helped me to develop the humane education programs that we offer to schools. Because I am very familiar with the constraints that teachers have in the classroom, I was able to design our curriculum in a way that not only teaches humane education topics, but also incorporates state mandated material as well. This makes our classroom presentations beneficial for both sides and offers a great talking point when forming partnerships with local schools. I can also say that my experience teaching has given me a wealth of knowledge in regard to resources. I have cases and cases full of humane education books, lesson plans, and activities…they are taking over my basement!!

Karen Patterson with girl scoutsIHE: What are your future plans?

KP: My future plans are to continue developing the humane education programs at HSHV so that they reach even more people in the community. Some of the items on my agenda for 2012 are to create more sessions of Camp PAWS, develop a humane education scholarship program for high school students in our community, and to create a humane education award program for classrooms, groups, and individuals who put forth a lot of effort in helping the animals at our shelter. I also would like to continue to implement professional development courses for teachers in our community and state. I am really excited to see what the future holds!

IHE: What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a new humane education program in their community?

KP: I would tell someone to really take their time and assess what educational initiatives are going to be the most beneficial to their community. It is easy to get overwhelmed when you think about all that you want to do, so start slowly and work on developing one program at a time. Also, there are SO many resources available!! Take advantage of them and don’t be afraid to reach out to other humane educators for help. 

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.  
You have read this article animal protection / animal welfare / compassion / empathy / humane education / humane societies / IHE graduates / interviews / youth activism with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/starting-from-scratch-10-questions-for.html. Thanks!

Humane Educator's Toolbox: Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes

“We’re like in this box. In order to be in that box you have to be strong. You have to be tough. You have to have a lot of girls. You gotta have money. You gotta be a player or a pimp. You know, you gotta be in control. You have to dominate other men, other people.”  ~ Byron Hurt, filmmaker

Look at hip-hop videos, listen to the lyrics, and you notice a lot of similarities: guns, violence, women, sex, and money. Filmmaker Byron Hurt is a huge hip-hop fan, but he began to question the representations of manhood and masculinity, the portrayal of women and the prevalence of violence in hip-hop music and videos. Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes is a record of his journey.

In a society full of hypermasculine violence and posturing in music, movies, video games, and sports and military culture, this film serves as an excellent tool for exploring issues surrounding what it means to be a man (especially a man of color) in America, through the lens of hip-hop.

In his exploration of hip-hop music and culture, Hurt raises questions about several issues, from perceptions of masculinity, to the prevalence of sexism, misogyny and the objectification of women, to the existence of homophobia and homoeroticism in lyrics and images. He also explores the roots of hip-hop and the exploitation and domination of hip-hop by the major music industry, which is primarily controlled by white men.

Hip-Hop was originally shown on PBS, and the companion website includes clips from the documentary, suggested resources, background information about the film and the issues explored, and educational materials, such as a discussion guide.

Bring this video to your upper high school and older audience for exploration and discussion of these important issues. (Be aware that the film and website include explicit language and images.)

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.  
You have read this article critical thinking / gender issues / hip-hop / humane education / manhood / masculinity / media literacy / music / sexism / systemic change / teaching tools / videos with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/humane-educator-toolbox-hip-hop-beyond.html. Thanks!

An Exciting Time to Be Alive: Reflections on the TED Conference

Image TED.com screenshot
I had the opportunity to attend a live streaming of the TED conference on February 29. The line-up of speakers was exciting. I learned about liquid metal battery technology from Donald Sadoway that will enable wind and solar energy to be stored, making their use more convenient and realistic. I learned about new autonomous flying robots that will be able to act as first responders and do search and rescue in emergencies from Vijay Kumar. Climatologist James Hansen offered a “feed and dividend” solution to our climate change challenges, while Reid Hoffman and Lior Zoref demonstrated the power of networks and crowdsourcing for collaboration and innovation.

What I love about TED is the opportunity to learn so much so quickly. Obviously, in 18 minutes, the maximum length of a TED talk, I don’t learn anything deeply or thoroughly; but each of the speakers is easy to find on the web for follow up should I wish to dive into a particular topic or idea.

In the midst of looming catastrophes (global warming, extinction of species, the continuing growth of the human population and all that such growth requires, resource depletion, etc.), there is a simultaneous emergence of the ability to learn from and collaborate with people across all borders and to innovate and create systemic change more quickly and efficiently. While atrocities persist, so does the exponential growth of people embracing human rights (women’s, children’s, gay, disability, etc.), animal protection, openness to and acceptance of new ideas, and more. TED is one example of this, with people coming together to learn, share, and exchange ideas for a better world. It’s an exciting time to be alive and to contribute.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
You have read this article activism / changemakers / creativity / critical thinking / problem solving / solutionaries / systemic change / Ted.com / videos with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/an-exciting-time-to-be-alive.html. Thanks!

Humane Issues in the News

Each week we round-up the news you need to know about humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture.

"Thousands of cattle dying stranded at sea" (via One Green Planet) (3/6/12)

Fast food restaurants have rejected "pink slime" meat, but USDA buying it for school lunches (via Huffington Post) (3/5/12)

Chinese workers beginning to demand unions, better wages (via Alternet) (3/4/12)

Research on ocean acidification, warming, reveals heavy toll on marine life (via Treehugger) (3/4/12)

"BP reaches oil spill settlement with Gulf oil spill victims" (via NPR) (3/3/12)

Iowa "ag-gag" bill passes (via Desmoines Register) (3/2/12)

Business-by-bike become nationwide trend in U.S. (via Sacramento Bee) (3/1/12)

"Extreme weather causing more Americans to again believe in climate change" (via Treehugger) (2/29/12)

Judge tosses suit against Monsanto (via Stltoday.com) (2/28/12)

Study shows dolphins greet each other (via ScienceNOW) (2/28/12)

Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages. 
You have read this article animal cruelty / animal intelligence / changemakers / climate change / factory farming / genetically modified / human rights / humane education / news media / ocean acidification / oil spills / school lunches with the title March 2012. You can bookmark this page URL https://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/03/humane-issues-in-news_6.html. Thanks!