For Teachers: Tools to Start the Year with a Humane Classroom

teacher in classroomIt’s that time of year. Kids are finishing up their summer homework and teachers are preparing their classrooms and going over their curricula.
As you prepare for the 2014/2015 school year, we would like to offer up a few resources that will help you make your classroom a humane classroom. And we would love to hear any additional suggestions on how you model humane behavior, create a safe learning space, and bring human rights, animal protection and environmental ethics into your daily lessons.
Teachers: Tips to Make Your Classroom Eco-Friendly

5 Quick Tips for Creating a Compassionate Classroom

Four Ways to Encourage Kindness in Students

Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education

Twenty Tips for Creating a Safe Learning Environment
Of course, you can always check out our resources section for actual lesson plans and activities. (And stay tuned for HEART’s new Animal Resource Guide. We’ll be releasing it soon!)
Photo Credit: US Department of Education / Flickr

Kids Across the Country Are Having a Humane Summer

Kids visit catskill animal sanctuary

Most people know that during the school year HEART is busy working with students and teachers to bring humane education into classrooms. What you may not know is that we’re just as busy during the summer!
With our Have a HEART camp in the Bronx, now in its fourth year, and our summer programs in Chicago, Indianapolis and Portland, Oregon, HEART is transforming summer into a time for kindness as well as fun. Pictures can tell the story better than we ever could, so see below for some highlights. The kids have been learning about human rights, animal protection and environmental ethics, and, as always, doing their best to help make the world a better place.

blind horse catskill animal sanctuary

Bronx kids meet farm animals like Buddy the blind horse at Catskill Animal Sanctuary

kids educate others about climate change

Indianapolis campers learn about and present on environmental issues

campers children's museum

Bronx kids visit the Children’s Museum at the New York Historical Society

kids animal shelter

Bronx kids learn about companion animal homelessness on a field trip to Animal Haven

diy bird feeders

Chicago kids made eco-bird feeders to help local wildlife

kids make eco cleaners

Chicago campers make eco-cleaners

campers clean up park

Bronx kids helped clean up Pelham Bay Park by picking up litter

If you’d like to support HEART’s important work, click here and help us bring humane education to more students and teachers.

Students at PS 107 Learn About Child Labor

students child labor

Do you know where your clothes were made? How about who harvested the food you ate this morning? Were the workers treated fairly? Paid a good wage? Do you know if they were adults or children? Sadly, if you ask the vast majority of people those very same questions, the answer to each and every one of them will most likely be, “I don’t know.”
In HEART’s lesson on child labor that “I don’t know” is just the jumping off point for students to start thinking about where their belongings come from and what their relationship is with the people who made them.
HEART instructor, Jeannie Russell, went to each of the 5th grade classrooms on week two of her ten-week program and talked to the kids about child labor and sweatshops. The kids were divided into pairs and given a true story to read about a child who worked in another country.

child labor education

The students were asked whether or not the work was good for the child, meaning it was safe and allowed them the time to go to school, or bad, meaning the conditions were unsafe and/or they worked too much to go to school. Through those discussions, they learned what many children around the world face each day. Some are forced to work long hours in fields, others in dangerous factories and some on the street. Some even join the military.
Jeannie asked the students to partner up and, by looking at his or her partner’s tags, find out where their clothing was made. Each pair discovered that their shirts and shoes were stitched in places like China, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia (to name a few). The students realized that they knew very little about the people who made their clothes. Then, they learned that asking questions about where their clothing and other belongings come from is a great step forward to becoming a humane consumer. By doing a bit of research on a company before we hand over our cash, we can decide whether or not it is the kind of company we would feel good about supporting. As with all of HEART’s programs, we ask students to look deeper and, with their newly acquired knowledge, to make the best decisions they can to help people around the world. That could mean boycotting a company that uses child labor or sweatshops, or buying more second hand clothing. They can also start petitions or write letters to let the company know that they aren’t happy with the way they are treating their employees.

kids learning geography

The students were fantastic as they listened and thought critically and compassionately about how children around the world live and work. That newfound knowledge is something they can easily apply to their everyday lives to help make the world a more humane place for children just like them.

kids learning about migrant farmers

5th Graders Give Animals Their Day in Court

kids learn about animals

On May 1st students at P.S. 36 became champions for chimpanzees, elephants and dolphins. In front of a guest judge (our own Chris Parrucci), the 5th graders presented their case on why nonhuman animals deserve to have rights.
Inspired by The NonHuman Rights Project, an organization that has made international headlines recently for its work to obtain legal rights for chimpanzees, the students used their role playing skills to take on the persona of one of the three species to convince the visiting judge that animals deserve a better quality of life than many are currently given.
For weeks the students researched their chosen species and looked at emotions, behaviors, habitats, familial bonds, how they are treated and what people are doing to try to help them. They looked into issues like poaching, animals in captivity, and habitat destruction and came up with arguments on why animals deserve better. They also designed masks so that when they made their presentation, they could show that they were a dolphin, chimpanzee or elephant.
Some arguments included:

  • The strong emotional lives of animals. Students pointed out that they feel the same emotions that humans feel.
  • They deserve to have lives without pain brought on by humans.
  • Wild animals do not want to live in captivity.
  • They need a place to live, and should therefore have their habitats protected.

One child said, “A lot of people think animals are really different. There are more things that people share with animals than people imagine. It’s silly that we get rights and they don’t.”
Judge for the day, and humane educator, Chris Parrucci, used his law background to carefully listen to the cases being made. He said about the students’ work, “I was impressed with how much research they did, how thoughtful they were and when I asked them questions they were very prepared to answer those questions. It was obvious they were doing a lot of critical thinking as well as showing empathy which is an amazing combination.” He continued, “It was very heartening to see just how the kids were really on board. There was no question that these animals deserved rights. The question was when they were going to get rights.”
HEART educator Jeannie Russell worked with the students for weeks to prepare for their day in imaginary court. The exercise enabled kids to really think about the ways in which we treat animals, and how we could do things differently. One student, who had taken on the character of a dolphin, said, “If dolphins did to humans what humans do to dolphins, then humans would be very upset.” When considering the ethics of any given situation, allowing yourself to walk in someone else’s shoes, even if it’s only pretend, can make all the difference in the world. These students did a fantastic job. We hope the real judges who hear the cases made by the real NonHuman Rights Project will be as compassionate as Chris.
Photo Credits: John K, Marv Gillibrand, Tambako the Jaguar (Flickr)

Students Use Community Mapping to Tackle Local Issues

For the past few months our 4th grade students at LEARN Excel Charter Schools engaged in projects to improve their community using a tool called “community mapping”. Through these projects our students were able to identify ways to improve their community and then take action to make it better.
So what is community mapping? The idea is simple. Students create a map of their community and on the map they identify areas that cause challenges in their community and areas that are beneficial to their community.
To help our students find concrete challenges and benefits, we took them on a walk around their school and photographed what they saw. Our students identified their school, trees, and fire hydrants as things that benefit their community, and litter, graffiti, and broken street signs as challenges that need to be addressed.
Working in small groups, the students used the photos to create their maps and then presented their maps to their classmates. After the presentations, the students discussed projects that would solve problems in their community or make good places in the community even better.

community mapping education

Since they identified their school as being a positive place within their community, they decided to have a school supplies collection drive and perform plays they created to educate the younger students. They also decided to have a litter cleanup day to reduce the pollution in their area. All three projects were a huge success!
Community mapping is a simple tool that connects students to the outside world and makes learning exciting and relevant. It can also make issues in the community more concrete or tangible, which is especially important for younger students.
If you would like to learn more about how HEART structures our community mapping projects, contact Mickey at