HEART Kids Make Art to Show Danger of Pollution

student pollution project

A number of years ago images taken by photographer Chris Jordan showing the plight of the albatross went viral online. Inspired by those heartbreaking photographs of the massive birds filled with plastic, HEART instructors Kim Korona and Chris Parrucci came up with a powerful lesson to teach kids about the true impact of pollution.
As part of the Living Wild Series in our after-school program at Animal Haven, kids took a hard look at plastic, how we use it and where it ends up once we dispose of it. They learned that animals like the albatross, seagull, rainbow fish, and sea turtle mistake plastic bags, bottle caps and other scraps of trash for food, injuring them or even causing them to die. The students understood that their actions matter and that by taking steps to reduce, reuse and recycle they can help save these animals and keep our planet clean.
To educate others, the students did their own version of Chris Jordan’s work by making portraits of animals out of plastic trash.
Instructor Kim Korona said about the project, “The Living Wild Service Project was a huge success. Our young participants, only 5 – 8 yrs. old created beautiful works of art to demonstrate how bottle caps and other small pieces of waste can cause harm to wildlife when they ingest it. The kids worked well in groups to create their art and they wrote the most thoughtful messages around their animals, asking people to ‘please not litter’ and to ‘save a life.’ We were so proud of them!”
Check out their art!

pollution art

pollution art

pollution art


Our Students Were Shocked to Learn this Fact about Child Labor

letter to rahm emanuel

Oppressive child labor is one of the many important issues that we teach our students about through our 10-lesson curriculum. Children who work under oppressive child labor get paid little money, work long hours in dangerous conditions, and often are unable to get an education.
When most people think of child labor, they picture children who worked in the coal mines during the early 1900’s or children working in sweatshops in foreign countries. However, our students were shocked to find out that oppressive child labor is still occurring right now in the United States.
According to the Human Rights Watch, every year hundreds of thousands of children are working in oppressive child labor on U.S. farms across the United States.
Children as young as 12-years-old can legally work on farms with their parents’ permission up to 14-hours a day and are paid less than minimum wage. They can also be exposed to pesticides and are four times more likely to drop out of high school.
Our students were outraged to learn these facts and decided to do something about it. So they wrote letters to politicians about this important issue encouraging them to take action!
Ralitsa, a 6th grade student at Dirksen Elementary School, wrote to Mayor Rahm Emanuel:

“Recently, I learned that children on some farms were being forced (they do not have much of a choice) to work as migrant farm workers. They get paid very little every day. They have to stop going to school and leave their education for a few months to work this job. Pesticides are thrown on top of them while they are working… I believe this act is very cruel. Since you are a powerful politician, you could possibly help with this problem.”
Amby, a 5th grade student at Ward Elementary School, wrote to President Barack Obama:

“Recently, I learned about child labor and how they have to work hard on farms. They get too little pay, about a dollar per hour, and they have to work for 12 whole hours. They can hurt themselves from sharp sheers. They can also get seriously hurt from pesticides. Since they have to work on child labor, they have to skip or drop out of school, which is bad for their education… Please try to ban child labor.”
We couldn’t be more proud of Ralitsa, Amby, and all our other students who decided to take action to help children who are working on farms! If you want to learn more about this lesson or any of our other lessons, don’t hesitate to contact Mickey at Mickey@teachhumane.org.

HEART Chicago Students Make PSAs for Companion Animals

Over the past few weeks, HEART students in Chicago have been learning about helping companion animals. Our students learned about how there are approximately 6-8 millions dogs and cats without homes, the benefits of spaying and neutering, the problems with puppy mills, and why companion animal adoption is so important.
To raise awareness about companion animal issues, our students created informative posters to be displayed at their schools and online. We asked Anna and Jesus, two of our 6th grade students at Dirksen Elementary School, to tell us more the project and the posters that they created.

student drawing animal shelters
Could you describe your poster for us?

Anna:  I created this poster as a project. It shows two animals, a dog and a cat, next to a shelter. On the poster, it explains how to stop overpopulation and why you should adopt at shelters instead of pet stores. The main idea of the poster was to explain to people that there are way more dogs, cats, and more animals than homes.
What do you hope people learn from your poster?

Anna: I want people to learn that there are many animals that aren’t spayed or neutered, and yours could be one of them. Nobody wants more overpopulation than there already is. So you should spay or neuter your dog or cat. Also, if you want to help out with this problem, adopt at a local shelter to help them. I had so much fun on this project, as I got to draw and spread an important message.

student drawing puppy mills

Could you describe your poster for us?

Jesus: In my poster I drew a dog in a cage pleading to be free. This explains how dogs feel at puppy mills. I wrote the most important facts to inform the reader about the topic and my title to grab their attention.
What do you hope people learn form your poster?

Jesus: I would like everyone to understand that puppy mills are hurting dogs and that what they say are lies. I think everyone should speak up and get the word out to ban puppy mills.
We couldn’t be more proud of Anna and Jesus and their passion for helping animals. However, Anna and Jesus are not the only students who made posters about helping dogs and cats. To see more of our students’ posters, visit our Flickr page.

I HEART How To: Make Your Own Eco Journal


There are two truths every educator knows. 1. Kids love crafts. 2. Kids go through an enormous amount of paper, even in this digital age. In an effort to give kids what they love but to make a smaller impact on the world’s forests, we have started a new activity that kids just love. Making eco-journals.
In our new “I HEART How To” we’ll show you how to take partially used paper (paper that was only written on one side) from recycling bins to transform it into a fully functional notebook for kids to decorate and write in. Through this fun activity, kids get to stretch their creative muscles and learn why it’s so important to use an entire piece of paper.
Teacher’s Tip: This would be a fantastic activity to do after a lesson on deforestation. Have fun!

Study Shows HEART’s Program Leads to More Prosocial Behaviors

bob schwalb

Brief Report on Prosociality Study
By Bill Samuels, Director of Assessment at CUNY, College of Staten Island
Even though teachers and students can easily see the benefits of humane education programs, it helps to test these programs scientifically. But, by design, science is unforgiving. Even though it might confirm one’s beliefs about a program, it could just as easily dispel them. It is therefore an act of courage and conviction to subject one’s programs to the rigors of science.
It’s also not cheap. Even if an experiment doesn’t require much money or supplies, it cannot be properly done with a big commitment of time made by a highly-trained team of people who work well together. For all of these reasons, it says a lot of HEART that they approached me to rigorously evaluate one of their flagship programs, the Circle of Compassion. HEART describes this program here, so I will only give a brief description of it, and then get to the juicy results of our study.
What We Did
An important goal of the Circle of Compassion is to change students’ attitudes or behaviors. And so I studied that. To do this, I followed the same general procedure that’s been used countless times by innumerable scientists to investigate a wide range of educational and clinical programs. I asked to students and teachers to complete well-established and -validated measures of humane attitudes and empathy for others both before and after the program; this let us see if these changed over the course of the program. I also compared these results to groups of student in a control group who participated in an unrelated program (a chess club).
So, to measure student’s attitudes and knowledge, we asked them—using scientifically-proven instruments. We could have also measured their behaviors by asking them, but we didn’t need to: We had a much better way sitting there just waiting to be asked: the students’ teachers. The program was conducted during the second half of the fall semester, so the teachers all had come to know their students rather well. Therefore, at the same time we asked the students about their attitudes and knowledge, we asked the teachers to catalogue how often each student had done certain things over the last three weeks. The actions included pro- or anti-social behaviors (e.g., is friendly or harms others), concentration (stays on task, is easily distracted), and disruptiveness (breaks rules, harms property).
We administered these instruments to students in four different schools, two in New York City and two in Chicago, both cities where HEART actively conducts programs in many disadvantaged schools like the ones we chose to ask to participate in our study. All four schools are public schools; all have at least 40% of their student body eligible for free or reduced school lunches (a typical measure of poverty that entitles schools for funding and services under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act). All schools readily agreed to participate, as did the teachers, students, and nearly all of the students’ parents and guardians.
What We Found
The most fundamental outcome is whether the Circle of Compassion effectively teaches children about humane education issues and changes their attitudes about them. Before the programs, there was no statistical difference between the attitudes and knowledge of the students in the HEART program and those in the control group; all students started at roughly the same point. We found, though, that the attitudes and knowledge of students who participated in the Circle of Compassion program increased over the course of the program while those of the students in the control group did not.
We also analyzed if their teachers said they were acting any better after the program. And we found that, yes, students who participated in the Circle of Compassion program were rated as being statistically significantly more pro-social than those in the control groups who did not. This wasn’t just a “halo” effect in which the teachers of the Circle of Compassion students were feeling better about them; after all, it could have been that the teachers were indirectly affected by the humane education program and felt softer towards their students and not that the students themselves were in fact acting any better. But, teacher’s ratings of the students’ levels of concentration and disruptiveness were not any different between the experimental and control groups. We were happy to see this since this supports our belief that the teachers’ ratings of the students’ pro-social behaviors were real.
What It Means
The Circle of Compassion program does what it sets out to do—and a bit more. It not only teaches upper elementary students about humane education issues and positively affects their attitudes about them, but also positively affects how they treat other people.