by Marsha Rakestraw
Teaching has been a part of Gypsy Wulff’s life for almost four decades.
An alum of IHE’s online courses, Gypsy, who lives in Fremantle, Western Australia, has worked in primary schools, trained teachers, and has taught adults with physical and intellectual disabilities. She became a music teacher 16 years ago and continues to enjoy working from her home studio.
As a dedicated animal lover and advocate, Gypsy spends time publishing educational materials that raise awareness and promote cruelty-free living. “Teaching and animal advocacy have become a happy and harmonious partnership,” says Gypsy, and last year she launched SpiritWings Humane Education, Inc.
We asked Gypsy to share about her humane education work and journey.
IHE: What led you to the path of humane education?
GW: In my early years of teaching, I believed in developing the whole child and worked at creating a learning environment that supported that goal. I wanted children to have a love of learning, a love of the written word, and the opportunity to develop their innate creativity in whichever direction they were drawn.
Now, as I approach almost four decades of teaching, my desire is for children to deepen their understanding and care of the world they live in. This has been largely motivated by a growing awareness of the issues concerning nonhuman animals and our environment. Having a knowledge and respect of the interconnectedness of all life is vital if we are to create a path to a new and constructive way of living. A different way of relating to our world and the animals who inhabit it is needed, and that concern has moved my attention firmly in the direction of humane education. This area of study is an incredibly inspiring development at a time when so many issues confront us. Rather than simply pondering problems, humane education develops a proactive, responsible approach that creatively empowers students by engaging in solutions. In essence, it teaches them to think constructively.
I also believe that a positive, upbeat, and inspiring approach fosters a sense of responsibility and hope at the same time. Humane education’s appeal to me is that it provides information to students in a way that encourages them to think expansively and thoughtfully, as well as deepening their understanding of the world. Acts that were once carried out without forethought are now replaced with an understanding of their impact on others, including nonhuman animals and the environment. Knowledge is power, and knowing how to live in harmony with the natural living systems of our planet is not only a necessity but a blessing to us all.
IHE: Share one or two of the most meaningful ways that you’re currently manifesting humane education.
GW: Along with my co-editor, Fran Chambers, I recently completed a four-year book project called Turning Points in Compassion, which profiles the personal journeys of animal advocates. Experience has taught me that behaviour does not change unless the heart changes, so I wanted a book that would touch people at the emotional level. We all love stories. Resonating or empathising with someone can create an openness and understanding that makes one more receptive to the deeper message. The response has been immensely positive, and the feedback is proof that we are hitting the spot.
In addition, I established SpiritWings Humane Education, Inc. in early 2014. The organization is a nonprofit which serves to provide publications for adults and children that raise awareness about how our choices impact the other beings in our world and the options we have to live cruelty free. Three children’s books and three companion activity books about animals and our relationship with them have been published so far, along with “Turning Points in Compassion,” which is for adults.
IHE: Share a success story.
GW: The first success in this journey was when I employed a co-editor to deal with the enormous amount of material coming in. A few weeks after coming on board, Fran, my new right hand, went vegan. She was touched by what she was learning and told me that she was in for the long haul. She has been true to her word and has been a constant support. At the same time my brother, a long-term meat eater, had offered to run my Facebook page. I’d never approached him on the topic of food choices, but after posting material for a short time he also went vegan. He said that everything he was learning simply wouldn’t allow him in all conscience to support meat eating. After that, the proofreaders for the book contacted me to say that they were rethinking their food choices. All this was evidence that when people have the information before them, they can make their own decisions to live more consciously and compassionately.
IHE: What are your future plans for your humane education work?
GW: I’m currently working on animations and preparing for a book on animal care for children. The main focus at present, though, is to spread the word about “Turning Points in Compassion,” both for the important message it contains, and the fact that all proceeds will go to animal rescue. Further developments of the website for children are planned, with interactive activities, including songs, posters, and downloads.
IHE: What gives you hope for a better world for all?
GW: It’s clear that our current way of living is not working, evidenced by the escalating destruction of the environment and other species. The situation is now such that our own survival is threatened. More and more, people, groups, and organisations are making a determined effort to live more consciously, constructively, and compassionately. When the challenges are greater, I believe the human spirit draws more deeply on its innate resources and our priorities change through sheer necessity. I also believe there is a yearning in many for a lifestyle guided by deeper values than those based purely on materialistic achievements. Consequently, there is a great deal more receptivity to change, particularly for those who want their children and grandchildren to have a future in which they can live healthy and whole lives. Such strong motivators are powerful catalysts for creating a better world.