Zoe Weil Receives 2014 HEART of Gold Award

HEART is very happy to announce that Zoe Weil is the 2014 recipient of the HEART of Gold award.
The Heart of Gold award was first introduced in 2013 to recognize people who have made an extraordinary contribution to humane education. Zoe certainly fits that profile. She is the visionary behind the comprehensive humane education movement serving as co-founder and President of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE). IHE created M.Ed., M.A. and graduate certificate programs in humane education, programs that many HEART staff members have graduated from.  Zoe has authored seven books on humane education, run workshops around the country, and has lectured widely on humane education.  Zoe’s newest project is the groundbreaking Solutionary School which is scheduled to begin operations in 2016 in New York City and will eventually be replicated throughout the country.
HEART of gold awardIn addition to her work with IHE, Zoe has been an important part of HEART’s development, having served on the planning committee for the development of our original ten lesson plan curriculum for grades 4-6 as well as on HEART’s board as we have grown the curriculum into over 160 age-appropriate lessons serving K-12 and expanded our teacher training and professional development.
“There is simply no one more deserving of this award than Zoe Weil.  We are so grateful to Zoe for her contribution to HEART over these years and to the overall field of humane education,” said Brad Goldberg, Chair of HEART.
“Zoe is truly a pioneer and her creative vision has had, and will continue to have, an enormous impact on HEART and education in general,” added Meena Alagappan, HEART’s executive director. “As a humane educator, Zoe personally taught more than 100,000 students to see themselves as part of the solution to our world’s most serious challenges. She is the perfect recipient for this award!”

This is What Empathy Looks Like

define empathy

HEART is working hard to spread humane education as far and wide as possible. We have most recently expanded to Highland Park, Michigan, a historic city outside of Detroit, and are providing a ten week program focusing on empathy and compassion to two seventh grade classes at Highland Park Renaissance Academy.
It has been heart-warming to witness the empathy and compassion the students have expressed for other living beings in just a couple of sessions. To begin discussions on these core values they listened to an NPR story about a man who had just been mugged by a teenage boy but still showed compassion for his assailant. The man invited the teenager to dinner, gave him his jacket, treated him to a meal, and asked him to think about what he wants out of life. The boy was in awe of the kindness this man showed him. When the teenager asked why the man was being so nice to him, the man simply responded by saying, “Weren’t you taught to be nice to everybody?” The teenager thought for a minute and then responded, “Yes, but I didn’t think anybody really acted that way.”
The students were asked what they thought would have happened to the teenager if he had not been shown compassion and they responded that he probably would have “continued to live in a world of violence”, “robbed more people”, “gone to jail”, or “ended up dead”.  It was difficult for the students to believe that someone could be so generous and one young man even stated, “This sounds like something out of a movie, not real life.”
HEART instructor, Kim Korona, warned the students to think of safety first and explained that we are not telling them to do what this man did, but to see him as an example of someone who shows empathy. If he can extend his compassion to a stranger who tried to rob him, then what does that mean about our own empathy?  Students were asked, can we extend our compassion to those around us, such as our classmates, a homeless person, a stray animal, or even our global neighbors who we may never meet? We think you’ll be able to guess the answer. Yes. Students believed that empathy was critically important and that we should do our best to be kind to everyone.
As the 7th graders progress in the program and learn about issues like animal homelessness, puppy mills, wild animals in captivity, factory farming, animal testing, and deforestation, they will put together service learning projects to help others, and brainstorm ways that they can live a more compassionate life.
The students will continue to learn about more animal and environmentally related issues and be challenged to put their empathy and compassion to the test by helping others through creative service learning projects, and practicing compassion in their day-to-day lives.
Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn / Flickr

Teaching About Turkeys During the Holiday Season

turkey close up

After giving thanks, when people think of Thanksgiving, they have turkey on their minds. A lot of students do turkey related projects around the Thanksgiving holiday, and at HEART we have a few creative ideas of our own to share about teaching about turkeys.
1)     Teach your students about some of the following fascinating facts about turkeys: turkeys have great memories, they like to swim and fly, they care about each other, they enjoy being pet, and if they know you well they might just give you a turkey hug. Teach them about the basic needs of a turkey. Then have your students color in a picture of a turkey and write a brief paragraph about what a turkey would be thankful for.
2)     Help your students get to know turkeys by sharing videos of turkeys (like this one and this one) from farm animal sanctuaries. Through the videos, students will be able to observe a turkey’s natural behaviors. You can also share the stories of actual turkeys who have been rescued and who are living at sanctuaries with your students. You could have them make biography posters of their turkeys. The students could include his or her pictures, his or her rescue story, and the species’ unique qualities.
3)     Turkeys are sweet sentient animals who want to be loved and cared for. Consider teaching your students about reverence and empathy for turkeys using these great children’s books: ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey and A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Diane de Groat. Both of these books are sure to warm the hearts of your students and help them to appreciate how special turkeys can be.
4)     Make eco-friendly turkey projects. After teaching your students about how special turkeys are you might consider having them make some cute turkeys out of recycled materials. We love these eco-crafts. The first one is making a turkey out of a reused toilet paper roll and the second is making a turkey magnet or puppet out of reused paperboard.
kids projects turkey
5)     Last but not least, if your students want to do a service project, consider having them collect money to sponsor a turkey at a farm animal sanctuary. Your class will receive a picture and a description of their turkey. Your students are sure to fall in love with their sponsored turkey, and it will be a service project they will never forget. If you happen to live near a Farm Sanctuary, kids could also be encouraged to visit their sponsored friend and observe his or her natural behaviors in person.
From all of us at HEART, happy Thanksgiving! We hope you enjoy celebrating with friends and family, and taking the time to reflect on all you have to be thankful for. And remember, we can work towards making this a more fair and just world, to give others more to be thankful for too!

Photo Credit: Flickr / photommo

Animal Ambassadors Learn About Black Cats and Bats for Halloween

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On October 31st seven 5 to 8 year olds in our Caring Kids: Animal Ambassadors program attended a fun and informative Halloween party at Animal Haven Shelter in NYC. These compassionate young changemakers learned about bats, black cats, and how to keep their companion animals safe during this spooky holiday. In addition to learning about how bats are sometimes misunderstood and why black cats can sometimes get a bad rap, the Animal Ambassadors created crafts to educate others about these remarkable creatures.
The kids practiced the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) by creating fun bat figurines out of old toilet paper rolls. While hard at work they also took time to watch the heart-warming story of a young orphan bat who was nursed back to health. The Ambassadors learned that bats are extremely important to many eco-systems and due to humanity’s actions and people’s misperceptions, bats have become threatened all across the globe.
Many of us know the old wives tales of black cats bringing bad luck. But did you know that in countries like Italy, Scotland, and Japan black cats are considered good luck? In fact in England if a black cat shows up to a wedding, the marrying couple are supposed to have a blessed marriage. The Ambassadors learned this and much more as they created black cat posters with positive messages to combat common stereotypes.

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In addition to all the hands-on crafts and learning, the Animal Ambassadors enjoyed some holiday treats, danced to Halloween-themed music, and enjoyed a slideshow of different companion animals in fun costumes.
The day was made even more special with the help from a number of local high school students who volunteered at the event. Led by the teacher, HEART super volunteer, Gail Frydkowski, the students helped the Ambassadors create their many crafts and celebrated during the final portion of the day.
The party was capped off with a celebration and award ceremony. The Animal Ambassadors were awarded badges and certificates, making them official Shelter Helpers and giving them something to remember all their great work on behalf of Animal Haven and all animals looking for their forever home.

5 Activities to Connect Children to Nature This Fall Season

fall colors

By guest blogger and educator, Simon Czerwinskyj
Although fall marks the end of summer, it doesn’t have to mean the end of outdoor activities. Children can continue to explore the outdoors and its numerous opportunities to learn and create as the weather turns. Here are some suggestions for fun and educational activities that will engage children and get them in the autumnal spirit.
1. Nature Walk

As children are primarily visual learners, it’s best to start with the concrete when having them commune with the outdoors. Nothing beats the age-old nature walk as a way to connect children with the environment. Take a walk and be on the look out for signs of fall. You can point out and explain the changing color of the leaves (as the green fades, we see the true colors of the leaves!). Make a game of locating particular leaf colors (how many red/orange/brown can you find?). Locate gardens or flower beds that were once fertile in spring and summer and discuss the changing landscape as autumn sets in. Talk about the colors you saw on the walk and associate them with the season.
2. Leaf Collection/Art with Found Nature Materials

We all know how much kids love to pick things up off the ground, and here’s a golden opportunity to indulge this inclination. Along your walk, pick up attractive leaves, bark, or small twigs in a bag. The leavings of fall are perfect for a homegrown art project. Use the leaves for rubbings by placing a thin sheet of paper over the leaves and rubbing the paper with a crayon (peel the paper off of crayons and use colors that correspond to the leaves) to reveal the image of the leaf. Yarn and twine are great tools to make bracelets or necklaces with your findings (simply skewer your leaves gently and push the yarn through). With a roll of large paper, you can create a fall mural of leaf and bark rubbings on one continuous sheet of paper. This also affords the opportunity for your child to draw or paste hand-drawn signs of fall on the mural (rain drops, wind, acorns, rain clouds). Make stencils of these items out of cardboard for younger children to trace to simplify the process.
3. Apple Tasting

Beyond the visuals of autumn, fall has a taste as well: the apple. Buy a variety of apples, such as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Gala etc. and have your children chop them into bite size pieces. Separate the different varieties so each has its own bowl and commence the taste test. Taste each apple and discuss the flavor (sour, sweet, bitter). As an extension, provide different foods with similar tastes to each variety of apple as a means of comparison and to reinforce the taste bud vocabulary. Have the children decide which apple they like best and use that variety to make homemade applesauce. You may also want to list the scientific names for the parts of the apple as an extension (exocarp, endocarp, etc.)
4. Homemade Applesauce

Once a favorite apple has been established, make some homemade applesauce with the winning apple. The children can help peel (optional) and chop cored apples (a simple butter knife or corrugated cheese slicer are effective and safe for children to chop with) into small pieces. By simply adding water, some cinnamon, and a bit of sugar (also optional), the apples can be transformed into sauce in a crockpot. There are plenty of simple recipes available on the web.
5. Identifying Leaf Shapes

For older children, find out what leaf shapes are most common in your area (cordate, orbiculate, elliptical?). Find images of these common shapes and make life size cards or stencils out of them. Then, it’s time for a leaf hunt. With the cards in tow (3-4 shapes should be good), find real leaves and match them to the cards. This is a great springboard to a leaf collection and further classification of the leaves. These leaves can be pressed, labeled, and added to a photo album or mounted on poster board for display.
Simon Czerwinskyj first became interested in Montessori as a student in a 3-6 Montessori classroom. After obtaining a BA in English, he followed in his parents’ footsteps and became a Montessori teacher. Simon has been teaching in 3-6 classrooms for 14 years, and is always finding new ways to engage his students. And his students are always finding new ways to impress him and make him laugh.

Photo Credit: Len Matthews/Flickr