As we practice physical distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, many are home with kids desperately seeking something to do that’s meaningful and empowering. Humane education activities can fit that need.
Humane educators bring human rights, animal protection, and environmental issues to students in age appropriate ways. They nurture compassion and inspire solutionary action. During these challenging times, humane education is more important than ever!
One of the hallmarks of humane education is fostering a love of nature, because people tend to protect who and what they love. If we love the natural world and other species, we’ll be more inclined to take care of the Earth.
To nurture a love of nature in your children, start by exploring your own backyard or nearby park with a scavenger hunt or take them on a wonder walk to discover the natural world with their five senses. Add unstructured play in nature, too, which is not only fun but also relieves stress. During The Wonder Box activity, children collect natural found objects to observe and respond to through writing, drawing, or other creative expression. Even if you live in a city, there are natural wonders to be found. You can modify the scavenger hunt, so that children look for:
- Plants emerging from cracks and trees uprooting concrete
- Animals who live in the city
- Insects who pollinate planted flowers
- Nests built high in trees
You might also have your children observe a small natural area, no more than a square yard, for 20 minutes and notice everything that happens during that time. At first, they may feel squirmy and bored, but soon enough nature will reveal itself in unexpected ways. Encourage your children’s curiosity by inviting them to write down questions that emerge as they observe, which they can seek answers to online or in books. For more ideas about nurturing nature appreciation, check out our guide for connecting kids (and adults) to nature.
Many of us share our homes with companion animals, and we’re able to spend more time with them during this crisis. In these moments together, observe and reflect on your animals’ unique personalities, noticing that they experience emotions similar to ours, such as joy, fear, sadness, and love. An educational game called Compassionate Investigators in Training Squad inspires kids to use their investigation skills to show kindness toward a puppy in need. Through their research they travel to a variety of places, including a pet store that is selling puppies from a puppy mill, and learn how to put their compassion into action.
Dogs and cats aren’t the only animals who deserve to be treated with compassion. In this Who Am I? activity, children learn about farmed animal behavior and intelligence through stories and educational videos. They discover that cows, chickens, and pigs make friends, remember faces, and have characteristics that people often attribute only to humans.
Another activity for children who are animal lovers is Pedro Comes for a Visit, the story of Pedro the Parrot, as told by a hand puppet you can create together. Pedro tells his story about living in the rainforest and the threats faced from the logging industry, animal agriculture, and development. Through skits and anecdotes, he reveals how children have the power to help protect his home and his fellow neighbors.
Humane educators not only explore separate issues related to people, animals, and the environment, they also draw the connections between them. Making Connections, Creating Solutions delves deeper into the connections between human activities that impact the planet, like our use of plastic, ocean pollution, the exploitation behind the clothing industry, and deforestation, and what we can do as solutionaries to address the underlying causes. You can also use activities like True Price to explore the hidden lives of everyday items around the house by analyzing what goes on behind the scenes to produce it, and investigate who or what has been helped or harmed in the process. Then, after becoming aware of the many ways mass consumerism is detrimental to our planet, use this activity to inspire your children to create their vision of a humane world.
Perhaps the greatest learning that could happen for middle and high schoolers during this time will come when they identify an issue of deep concern to them and become solutionaries. Please download our free Solutionary Guidebook, where you’ll find an easy-to-follow 14-step process that will enable your kids to become excellent researchers, investigators, and problem-solvers.