IHE M.Ed. graduate Caroline Crane grew up near Detroit, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree and became certified to teach elementary education. She then worked for several years as a vet tech for the Humane Society of Huron Valley. And since 1994 Caroline has been the vice president of education for the Humane Society of Broward County in Miami, Florida.
We asked Caroline to share about her humane education work.
IHE: What led you to the path of humane education?
CC: One trip to the animal shelter over 30 years ago. That trip opened my eyes and my heart to what it truly means to have empathy and compassion for other living beings. Since then, I try to put myself in the shoes of others and think about how I would feel if I were wearing those shoes. When you look at it like that, it’s hard not to be compassionate.
IHE: How has your humane education experience influenced you?
CC: It affects my entire life. I try to live a compassionate lifestyle as much as I can. I notice the world around me and appreciate every aspect of it: the blooming flower, the birds calling, the suffering of others, every morsel of life. I try to stay mentally healthy, though, because it can envelop you and be overwhelming at times. My hope is that I can teach others to feel empathy and compassion so one day the world as a whole can change. One step, one day at a time.
IHE: Describe your current humane education work.
CC: I have been the Vice President of Education at the Humane Society of Broward County for 22 years. I am very fortunate to have a job where I teach about what I love. The department has grown leaps and bounds and has blossomed into four wonderful staff members.
Our school programs, camps, clubs, tours and partnerships range from basic animal care, cruelty, puppy mills, safety, compassion, kindness and pet overpopulation. Just recently, an environmental segment has been added to our animal newspaper, and a whole day of camp has been designated to the environment…thanks to IHE!
I also launched a new program to reach the parents of the kids we teach. I was finding the kids were responsive, but ultimately their parents make the decisions. We also developed a Pawsport Diploma program for our staff and volunteers. There are eight classes that they take to earn their Pawsport, including Animal Welfare 101, Compassion Fatigue, ABCs of Animal Care, Animal Cruelty 101, and others. Once they achieve their citizenship, they are eligible for raffles and other perks. You have start the education from within.
Our department also really tries to affect every stage of life, from toddlers to senior citizens. We have clubs for all ages so we can make a lasting impact through the course of a person’s lifetime. It’s amazing to me, some of the kids in our Cooper’s Kids Club are now in our Teen Club. They are little teachers speaking on behalf of the shelter and all of our beautiful animals.
IHE: What kind of impact has your humane education work been having?
CC: We have been very successful in finding clever ways to reach the masses. I think one of the most effective ways to make a lasting impact is to develop partnership programs; we have several. One partnership we developed is with the Girl Scouts of Broward County. Girls can earn their Humane Society patch by participating in 10-12 animal-related activities per year. For each level of Girl Scouting they earn a different colored bone for their vest. After four years in the program they become the experts. There are over 10,000 Girl Scouts in Broward County, so that’s a lot of outreach.
Another great program that reaches children on a consistent basis is “Cooper’s Kids Club.” (Cooper is my dog.) The kids meet monthly and spend 90 minutes learning about being caring and humane citizens and interacting and working with the animals. We have more than 150 members in our clubs. We have a Teen Club with 75 members that the kids often graduate to. We also have a Pups and Tots Club, a Seniors Club and a Young Professional’s Group. Our objective, as stated previously, is to reach the masses repeatedly!
One-time visits to schools are great, and our department is always in the schools, but I truly believe we really start to make a difference when the kids are hearing the message over and over.
IHE: Share a success story. What has helped encourage you?
CC: My 11-year-old niece, Isabella, had to do a flipchart presentation in her French class. She sent me a video of the program. I cried when she stated that I had made the biggest impact in her life. She said that I have taught her how to be kind and compassionate to other living beings. It melted my heart and made me feel like I have made a difference.
IHE: What are your thoughts about the power of humane education to positively transform the world?
CC: I think there is power in numbers and power in compassion. How can anybody argue with being kind, respectful, and thoughtful of the world and the life around us? If we continue to grow, teach, and be positive examples for our future, our individual flames of passion can ignite and form a blazing fire of hope for all.
IHE: What would you say to others interested in IHE’s graduate programs?
CC: The IHE grad program was just what I needed to drive my passion. By educating myself further and being surrounded by like-minded people, I felt like I found my “religion.” The internship was one of the single most memorable and fulfilling things that I have ever done in my life. I felt connected to the world around me in a different way. I felt a light and purpose that I had been seeking. I will never forget it, and I carry those experiences with me in my life today.