Humane Education Activity: Exploring Ethical Dilemmas

We never know how we'll behave in challenging and stressful situations, but we can improve our chances of acting in ways that are aligned with our values by practicing and role playing. After all, empathy and compassion, justice and courage, critical thinking and delayed gratification are all qualities that we can cultivate in ourselves and inspire in others.

"What if?" (What if you had a million dollars? What if you only had 1 day to live?, etc.) is a favorite game that engages self-reflection, critical thinking, and creativity. Our activity, What Would You Do?, uses this "What if..." framework as a platform to help students (grades 3-8) think deeply and critically about the quandaries between balancing personal desires with kindness toward others by engaging them in discussing personal and global ethical scenarios.

After exploring what it means to be humane (having what are considered the best qualities of humans), students grapple with a variety of theoretical scenarios, both personal and more global, considering the complexity of each situation and working to create a solution that does the most good and least harm for all concerned. What would students do if an unpopular classmate were being bullied? If they saw a friend cheating or stealing? What would students do if they want new clothes, but don't want to support sweatshops? If they want a dog, but are concerned about supporting breeders and puppy mills?

This activity can lead to an exploration of actual dilemmas students have faced or are facing now, as well as a broader investigation of what we can do as citizens to make choices and support systems that help create the just, compassionate, healthy world we want.

Download the activity (pdf).

~ Marsha

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