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Tell me, I will forget.
Show me, and I may remember.
Involve me, and I will understand.

--Chinese Proverb

     Violence has become one of the defining characteristics of our age.  Even if it hasn’t touched our lives directly, we are confronted with the images and effects of it daily in the news.   Growing up humane in a violent world is not easy these days.  That’s why humane education can play an important role – with programs that aim not only to reinforce positive attitudes and behaviors towards all living things, but also discourage negative ones.  Children who grow up with positive attitudes may be more likely to resist negative peer pressure later on.  Children need to learn compassion and empathy and also that they can make a difference.

     Humane education is a process by which a person comes to realize that all life is precious, and that there is an interdependency between people and animals.  Humane education is not a new concept.  As early as 1933, the National P.T.A. Congress recognized its importance by issuing the following statement:

     "Children trained to extend justice, kindness, and mercy to animals become more just, kind, and considerate in their relations with each other… The cultivation of the spirit of kindness to animals is but the starting point towards that larger humanity which includes one’s fellow of every race and clime."

     Humane education offers many benefits including those outlined below by Everything Animals Resource and Activity Center in Bullville, New York:

Promotes self-esteem and empowers children

  • Increases sense of responsibility by teaching care-giving skills.
  • Assures children that they are capable of giving and receiving unconditional love.
  • Gives children concrete sense that they are part of the world community.
  • Gives children sense of control within their environment.

Assists in the prevention of child abuse

  • Reveals through classroom discussions relating to pets, possibly abusive situations in the home.  Connection between animal abuse and child abuse is well documents.
  • Helps a child develop the ability to speak up for animals and may enable the child to speak up for him/herself in the event of an abusive situation.
  • Helps children to transfer natural feelings of compassion for animals to compassion for people.
  • Teaches children how their actions directly impact others.

Promotes trusting and nurturing behaviors

  • Demonstrates the positive results gained from loyalty, love and interdependency between people and pets thus leading to similar positive behaviors between people and their neighbors.
  • Working with animals gives children a sense of continuity that may not otherwise be present in their lives.

Promotes compassion for others

  • Learning about an animal’s natural environment and behavior helps children to understand and appreciate diversity.
  • By understanding needs of others, children are better able to cope with differences.
  • Helps model for children proper caring behaviors.

Promotes health and well-being>

  • Classes dealing with communicable diseases can help to prevent their spread.
  • Classes dealing with the proper way to approach animals can help children to avoid animal bites, scratches or attacks.
  • Helps to reinforce the importance of good hygiene.

Assists in preventing future violent behaviors

  • Teaches children respect for all life.
  • Teaches children that any form of cruelty is not acceptable.
  • Teaches children techniques for working through problems with pets.  Techniques that can then be transferred to resolving conflicts with peers.

     Some states, including New York, mandate humane education in public elementary schools.  Unfortunately, the law is not applied or enforced evenly and, as a result, the amount and level of humane education in our schools varies and in many cases is non-existent.  While this situation needs to be rectified, another way of providing this important type of education is through the "Kind Kids Animal Lovers’ Club."

    The initial meeting of the Club, which is for children between the ages of 7-11, was held at the Gerritsen Beach Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library on January 20, 2001.   Parents attended with their children.  Members of the club will meet monthly to learn more about animals and the important role they play in our lives.  They will be given the opportunity to develop a greater understanding of the need to respect all living creatures – both human and non-human varieties.  There will be special guest speakers and/or videos on a variety of animal-related subjects.   Participants will receive humane educational materials at each meeting that they can share with family and friends and will receive free subscriptions to humane educational newsletters designed specifically for children.  Any questions that arise from the material will be discussed at the following meeting.

     The kids will have the opportunity to recommend, select and work on a humane project which will by completed in early May to coincide with "Be Kind to Animals Week.  Project ideas include:

  • Developing, designing and producing a pet care book for distribution to the community.
  • Designing an exhibit for the library, school or nature center on an animal issue such as pet overpopulation, littering, handling of urban wildlife.
  • Developing a campaign to increase awareness of an animal issue such as the impact of littering on wildlife, the ecological role played by horseshoe crabs, spiders, praying mantis’ (the kids will choose) and the importance of not harming them. Producing flyers for distribution through neighborhood stores and writing articles for the local papers to increase awareness of the issue and promote the campaign.
  • Identifying a worthy animal charity and holding a fund-raiser such as a bake sale, flea market, etc.
  • Collecting towels, blankets, toys, goodies, etc. for donation to a local animal shelter.
  • Participating in a letter-writing campaign on an animal issue of their choice.

     Those kids who complete the project will receive a special certificate commemorating their contribution to a kinder, gentler, world.

     The Gerritsen Beach Club will serve as a pilot program that, if successful, can be expanded to other age groups and locations.

     We would love to hear from you if you have any suggestions for making this concept a successful reality.

Watch this site for suggestions on starting a
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