When it comes to launching into humane education, inertia and trepidation can take hold: What if I don’t know enough/I’m not good enough? What if my audience is bored/annoyed/traumatized? What if someone disagrees with me? What if I don’t know where to start?
Sometimes the nudge we need is just to know that someone else has been there done that. We need to know we’re not alone and that what seems impossible is really quite doable.
In a recent Our Hen House blog post, lawyer, citizen, mother, and activist Jennifer Gannett shares how she dipped her toe in the pool of humane education by offering to help teach at her son’s elementary school. As Jennifer says:
This year, I came up with the idea to ask my son’s teacher, Ms. M, if she could make use of my or my partner’s skills as environmental and animal advocates to bring some more green-themed education to her students. When she responded that she would like to have the class study endangered species, I was thrilled! Endangered species are a strong interest of mine, personally and professionally. I loved the idea of sharing my passion with a room full of second graders.
Jennifer and Ms. M led the class in exploring endangered species and the complex issues related to helping them; in writing letters to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and in completing projects to help chimpanzees. As Jennifer says, there’s an important and delicate balance, especially with younger students, between providing them with accurate information and focusing on the solutions:
By far the most difficult aspect was keeping the tone appropriate while not undercutting the truth of what is happening to endangered species. It is a challenge to impart the urgency of the animals’ (and plants’) situations – after all, they are listed as threatened and endangered because their positions are perilous – without being overly negative and throwing the doors wide open on some real horrors. The solution that I tried to pursue was to focus on some of the things that the students could do to help.
How did it go for Jennifer on her inaugural effort?
My experience volunteering as a humane educator was a win-win-win. The students not only learned about national and global issues that were in keeping with their school’s theme, but they evinced high levels of passionate enthusiasm for saving the animals and making the world a better place (their words).