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Humane Education: Who, What, and Why?

Dr. Kathleen Tate
Program Director of M.Ed. Teaching

Teachers are charged with the task of delivering curriculum to their students. But to be most effective, teachers should make sure to teach curriculum in meaningful ways that their students can relate to and apply to either their current or future lives-within and beyond the classroom walls. One way to make curriculum and learning more engaging, motivating, and relevant is to teach through humane education themes.
What is humane education? The phrase humane education is often associated with humane societies and organizations that advocate for the appropriate treatment of children and animals. However, the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) explains that humane education instills the desire and capacity to live with compassion, integrity, and wisdom-while also providing the knowledge and tools to values into action in meaningful, far-reaching ways. Humane education focuses on issues related to animals, environment, and people.
Thus, the institute states humane education includes 4 elements:
1. Providing accurate information (knowledge to face challenges);
2. Fostering the 3C’s: curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking (tools to meet challenges);
3. Instilling the 3R’s: reverence, respect, and responsibility (motivation to confront challenges);
4. Offering positive choices and tools for problem solving (resources to solve challenges).
Humane education is important for teachers and curriculum specialists to understand. The idea is to develop students into citizens who are informed, passionate, responsible, creative, critical thinkers and problem solvers. It is time that citizens understand the global nature of societal issues and care about people, environments, and animals both locally and in distant places.
For example, instead of teaching about verbs (language arts), graphs (math), and mammals (science) in isolation, a simple humane education lesson/unit can be created that incorporates those topics in an integrated, thematic, and authentic manner. If an elementary class chooses to do an awareness-and-outreach project about pet overpopulation and homelessness, the following can be covered:
1. Language Arts (verbs)
a. Verbs can be explored in a context (e.g. help, assist, find, persuade, change, transform, need, live, choose, spay, neuter, adopt, eat, sleep, seek)
b. Verbs can be applied in written projects (e.g. letters, posters, brochures, and/or blogs that bring awareness, persuade, inform, or cause change for pets in the community or beyond)
2. Math (graphs)
a. Statistics and information about pet overpopulation and homelessness locally and beyond can be transformed into graphs (e.g. bar graph, pie chart, picture graph)
b. Multimedia skills can be addressed as students create graphs for brochures and other products with computer tools
c. Students can make analyses and comparisons of graphed data
3. Science (mammals and their needs)
a. Examine basic needs-food, water, air, appropriate climate, and shelter and how those needs relate to pet overpopulation and homelessness
b. Explore man’s impact on mammals’/pets’ basic needs
Who should be involved with humane education? Humane education seeks to involve children, teenagers, and adults. One way to do this is through schools and teachers. Administrators, teachers, support staff, parents/caregivers, specialists, university professors, researchers, and district/state policy makers need to become informed and supportive. Further, humane education lessons and outreach projects prompt the perfect opportunity to:
1. Invite local and virtual experts to the classroom
2. Take face-to-face or virtual field trips
3. Get more involved with life outside of the classroom.
Why? Students of all ages can make a difference in the world around them. Whether a classroom focuses on fund raising (e.g. sell classroom-made art for quarters and buy a piece of the rain forest to preserve it); awareness (e.g. create persuasive flyers and posters about local or distant issues such as poaching, hunger, or literacy); or action (e.g. plant a tree, start a school-wide recycling program, collect materials for earthquake or flood victims), it is time for students and citizens to be aware, passionate, and responsible. Moreover, why not make classroom learning relevant and purposeful?
Resources:
Institute for Humane Education Resources – http://humaneeducation.org/sections/view/resources
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – http://www.epa.gov/students/index.html
Eartheasy – http://eartheasy.com/blog/2009/03/environmental-websites-for-kids/
ASPCA –Kids – http://www.aspca.org/aspcakids/
Children Helping Children, Intl. – http://www.chcintl.org/
The Groundwater Foundation – http://www.groundwater.org/kc/kc.html
Green Teacher – http://www.greenteacher.com/
Kids’ Planet – http://www.kidsplanet.org/
Polar Bears International – http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/polar-bears/polar-bears
Energy Kids – http://www.eia.gov/kids/index.cfm
Save Acres of the Rain Forest (World Land Trust) – http://www.worldlandtrust.org/supporting/donate
Earth Day Network – http://www.earthday.org/
Kids be Green – http://www.kidsbegreen.org/
Teens for Planet Earth – http://www.teensforplanetearth.org/
Make a Difference Day – http://makeadifferenceday.com/

Dr. Kathleen Tate has over 15 years of experience as a special education teacher, researcher, and professor. Before becoming the Program Director of Teaching at American Public University and being in the field of education, she worked in numerous industries including corporate, retail, and civil service. Kathleen received a B.A. in Soviet & East European Studies with a minor in Economics and M.Ed. in Special Education from the University of Texas. She received a Ph.D. in Elementary Education from Florida State University. As a doctoral student at Florida State University, Kathleen taught language arts methods and courses focusing on both ethnolinguistically diverse learners and learners with special needs.
Dr. Tate was a tenure track professor at both Auburn University and the University of West Georgia. As a virtual consultant for over seven years, Dr. Tate has taught graduate online courses in choice theory, differentiation, special education, curriculum, and mixed methods research. She has served on numerous M.Ed., Ed.S., Ed.D., and Ph.D. committees and has secured in excess of $31,000 in internal and external grant funding. Research grants funded two annual NASA-based interdisciplinary summer science camps for 4th to 8th grade girls from Tuskegee, Alabama. Dr. Tate taught undergraduate and graduate courses in language arts, science, social studies, ESL, creative drama, creative arts, reading, and program evaluation.
Kathleen has lifetime Texas teaching certificates in Elementary 1st-8th, PreK-12th Special Education, and 1st-8th Theatre Arts; and completed graduate coursework for Visual Impairment Certification PreK-12th. Dr. Tate taught children with varying disabilities in 4th and 5th grades in both resource and inclusive classrooms and 3rd and 5th grades in summer school. In Texas, she was lead campus mentor, provided mentor training to veteran teachers, and served as the mentor for a teacher who sought alternative Texas state certification. She has observed more than 700 undergraduate, graduate, and alternative certification candidates across Texas, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia in PreK through 6th grade classrooms.
Dr. Tate has served a reviewer and lead co-editor for varied scholarly, peer reviewed journals. She also has authored 10 articles, which have been published in Youth Theatre Journal, Science and Children, and Social Studies Research and Practice. Her most recent publication titled Integrating Humane Education into Teacher Education: Meeting our Social and Civic Responsibilities can be found in the Summer 2011 issue of Teacher Education and Practice journal.
Dr. Tate was recently interviewed by the Institute for Humane Education. The short interview can be found in their newsletter and the full interview at their blog.
Her research interests include humane education, mixed methods research, underserved/underrepresented populations, arts-based and multimodal teaching and learning, and integrated/thematic instruction.

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