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From 23 March 2003 Issue

The Active Activist
By Michelle Rivera - MichelleRivera1@aol.com 

A monthly series for those who want to bring about change in their own community.

Teach Kids to Care Workshops

I recently held a “Teach Kids To Care Workshop” in my community and the feedback from workshop attendees was nothing but positive. This month’s Active Activist is dedicated to humane education and how you can participate in helping to reach young people, the future leaders of the world.

The National Association of Humane and Environmental Education (NAHEE, a division of HSUS can be found at www.nahee.org) is the publisher of the wonderful little publication, Kind News. For those of us involved in Humane Education, Kind News is an important tool that many of us use every month.

NAHEE has a traveling workshop that is a self-contained practicum. For those who are interested in “keeping humane education in the classroom when you aren’t there,” helping to facilitate a “Teach Kids to Care” workshop” may be just the ticket you need to get your community active in humane education efforts.

Here’s how it works: Check out the Nahee website (www.nahee.org, or www.KindNews.Org) and follow the links to the workshops. Then, contact your local HSUS headquarters and get them on board. To find out where your local headquarters is, check out www.hsus.org and click on “Regional Offices.” Let them know you are interested in hosting a “Teach Kids To Care” workshop. They will help you put together a mailing list of those in your region who may be interested in attending. They will also take charge of the mailing including postage, and if you send them a mailing list they will send out brochures for you at no charge to you.

They will contact NAHEE. You can contact NAHEE directly as well. All NAHEE asks is that you provide a site and arrange for lunch. The room should be large enough to hold 20-30 people who will be able to sit at tables. Try asking local humane societies, schools, churches, hospitals and corporations for the use of their conference rooms, classrooms, or even board rooms. The NAHEE speakers will bring all the equipment that they need. They ship it a week before so you will need to provide a place for them to ship 6-7 large boxes where you can be responsible for them. They will also ask you to contract with a local caterer and come up with a menu. They will pay for lunch for both days. They do require vegetarian fare. (If you cannot find a caterer, one can always order veg/vegan pizza and/or subs.)

The “Teach Kids To Care” workshop has several components. They are professionally done with PowerPoint, slides and videos. The take-home materials are copies of the Power Point presentations and literature-sharing.

One of the segments was called “The Power of Narrative” and is a discussion about stories as compared to formal discussions. Those who are teaching humane education are encouraged to use stories in their lessons and activism. Some of the points that are covered during this segment of the workshop are:

Stories are compatible with the way we think about moral issues -- We remember things that we hear about in stories as opposed to those things we hear about during lectures.

Stories provide context -- Stories often mirror real-life situations and provide a background for understanding.

Stories create empathy -- Stories include characters with whom we can relate.

Stories inspire moral action -- The drama of stories helps develop emotional attachment to goodness and a desire to do what is right.

Handouts for this segment of the workshop include a bibliography, websites for stories, story starters and enders and a sampling of “Troubador’s Tales” from the Kind News publications.

Another segment of the two-day workshop is entitled “Rebels with a Cause” and includes helpful information on getting through to teenagers. There is excellent information on service learning programs and how to start one in your community. Service learning is a new educational model that allows students to engage in meaningful service to their schools or communities through careful integration with the academic curriculum.

Some of the points covered in this segment included:

* Service learning fills a need in the community
* Ties in with academics
* Fosters good citizenship
* Is a long-term relationship
* Builds in time for structured reflection where students share their feelings and goals.

Handouts comprise a list of service learning projects and the correlating subject. Some of the examples of how academic subjects correlate to service learning are:

Art:
Students may paint a mural for the local shelter, create a billboard, create bulletin boards for their schools with animal-related news, build and carpet colorful cat trees, create public service announcements, build birdhouses, and much more.

Drama/Theater:
Students may create animal-related puppet shows and skits for street theater at fairs and festivals, videotape “A Day in the Life of a Stray,” create a lesson plan for classroom presentations, produce a radio show and much, much more.

Health/Physical Ed:
Students may organize a walkathon, set up an agility course, research animal products to see if they are cruelty free, set up animal-assisted therapy visits.

Music:
Students may write and perform animal-related songs, stage a “Battle of the Bands” for fundraising, organize a “Pet Rock Concert.”

There is another segment that relates to Character Education (The Character Connection) that teaches us about the connection between character ed and humane education (and may very well be your key to unlock classroom doors) as well as an interactive game that is meant to enlighten students about euthanasia, spay/neuter and other “rescue” issues.

The “Teach Kids To Care” workshop was one of the most rewarding things I have done as a humane educator. It was simple for me to do because the mailings, registration and financial responsibilities were all handled by either the HSUS regional office or the NAHEE office itself. The cost of the workshop for attendees was $30, but they are flexible about allowing you to invite volunteers or key personnel without paying the registration fee. My workshop drew humane educators and animal control officers from all over Florida and one from Nebraska!

The sharing of information among all these diverse professionals was an educational experience in itself and the friendships and networking that took place was a bonus as well.

There is a slight “infomercial” for Kind News about halfway through the workshop. Dorothy Weller and Lisa Cushing are the facilitators of the workshop and they explained how you can actually earn money for your organization by selling subscriptions to Kind News. Although some in the animal rights movement find Kind News to be somewhat soft on animal rights, I have found it to be an excellent tool for teaching kids about animals. For example, the issues for the month of February spotlighted the tragedy of “tethered dogs.” I asked several of my classes to write essays about why chained dogs are so sad, why they cause a problem in their neighborhoods and some solutions for helping chained dogs. We then visited the Dogs Deserve Better website at www.DogsDeserveBetter.com and learned more ways to help dogs that are chained. Some of the essays were sent on to Dogs Deserve Better with the hopes they will encourage other kids to get involved. I reached over 90 third graders in an inner city school that week and I did it with the help of KindNews. Each child got to take his or her own copy of Kind News home with them so that their parents, too, could learn about chained dogs.

So while Kind News may be considered “soft” on animal rights, it is welcomed into the schools and classrooms with opened arms and hearts in a way that many of the animal rights materials are not. And we cannot reach and teach the young people if we can’t get into their schools. Kind News opens doors, hearts and minds. There is nothing soft about that!

Go on to Holocaust Controversy by J.R. Hyland
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