Using the humane education lens (which looks at the interconnected issues of human rights, animal protection, environmental preservation, and media and culture, and infuses the 4 elements of humane education) means that we can find inspiration for educating and motivating others in all sorts of places.
Here’s one terrific example.
IHE president Zoe Weil, and her husband, Edwin Barkdoll, recently posted a short little video of a mouse swiping a zucchini they had left on the counter. Most people who saw the video commented on its cuteness. Betsy Messenger, who is a humane educator, and an alum of our online courses, saw the video as a humane education lesson waiting to be created. Here’s the video:
And here’s the lesson Betsy created (which she has kindly allowed us to share with you). Note that she used this lesson with a group of 4th graders, and the suggested responses are examples of how her students responded:
Mouse vs. Zucchini: A Lesson on Perspective
To discover and think about the perspectives of other people and of nonhuman animals.
Grades: 2nd – 8th
Time: 30 minutes
- Mouse vs. Zucchini video:
- Sticky notes or other recycled paper or dry erase boards
1. Create a bold sign with the word Perspective written on it.
2. Have picture book examples of different perspectives or examples on hand to share.
- Ask students what they think perspective means? (Possible answer: looking from someone else’s viewpoint)
- Ask students to share examples of perspective, either from a book, or an experience. Is it sometimes hard to see someone else’s perspective or not? Why is that?
- Ask students: What do some people think or feel about mice? Inside a home? Outside? (Possible answers: dirty, gross, messy, smelly, pets, scary, annoying, cute, smart, cheese eaters, etc.)
- Have students write their responses on sticky notes, so that everyone can see the responses. Discuss some of the responses.
- Ask students: Where do people learn some of these ideas about mice? (Possible responses: other people, rumors, TV, movies, etc.)
- Explain to students that they are going to watch a video; ask them to watch very closely. (You may want to have them watch it a few times.)
- After showing the video, ask the group: What did they see and/or think about the mouse? The responses can be verbal, but encourage students to write their responses on sticky notes and post them next to the previous responses. (Responses might include clever, timid, didn’t give up, brave, curious, clean.) Then students can compare the two sets of responses. It potentially could open up a greater discussion.
- Encourage the group to look back at their list of how some people may feel about mice.
- Ask students: Why do you think this person videoed the mouse? How do you think they feel about this little mouse? About all living things? (One student’s response: “The mouse wants respect like humans. The people wanted the mouse to be treated fairly.”) Have students write down their responses; ask volunteers to share, and lead a brief discussion.
- Lead a closing discussion exploring how we all have different perspectives and what would happen if we were to think more openly (regarding other people, nonhuman animals, and the earth)?
1. For younger students: Have students write a short fictional story on what happens next. Is the mouse a hero with his friends, or does he keep that HUGE zucchini all to him or herself??
2. For older students: Have students pick any household product or makeup, etc. Have students read the packaging (most will say harmful if….) and encourage them to think about how the company knows it’s harmful, leading to a discussion about animal testing. Then have students research their product to see if it was tested on a mouse, rabbit, or rat and how. The students then can brainstorm better solutions such as cruelty free products, homemade cleaning products, etc. Finally the students can create posters, PowerPoint or an advertisement jingle ‘selling’ the more humane solutions to animal testing.
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