BOOKS: Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania Education Committee’s Humane Education Guidebook
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2002:
Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania Education Committee’s
Humane Education Guidebook
American SPCA (424 East 92nd St., New York, NY 10128), 2000.
244 pages, 3-ring binder format. $59.95.
The Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania Humane
Education Guidebook came into being at the urging and direction of
Women’s Humane Society education director Janice Mininberg, who
recognized an “acute need for written guidelines that would aid all
humane educators in their quest to establish productive,
professional education programs at their respective SPCAs and humane
Five years in the making, the guidebook represents the
collaborative effort of 25 contributors, primarily humane educators
from within Pennsylvania. The ASPCA helped fund the project and then
provided additional funding for workshops to introduce the guide in
This guide outlines a professional approach to conducting the
kind of humane education program traditionally envisioned and hoped
for by the executive director and board of most U.S. humane societies
and SPCAs. This is both its greatest strength and weakness. It is a
strong guide for improving the quality of humane education within the
limitations of present standard practice. Yet it does very little to
move humane educators from envisioning humane education as solely
their purview, toward a larger vision of mentoring and empowering
teachers, counselors, judges, police, nurses, block watch
members, pet store staff, veterinary staff, and so on to accept
humane education as an important part of their routine work.
This requires advocating and teaching of a kind not yet
supported or even considered by most humane organizations, except
perhaps in the areas of child/animal abuse and animal-facilitated
therapy. Yet training of all such community monitors of human
behavior must be done if all levels of society and significant
numbers are to be reached.
Consider the difference between teaching 100 children and
teaching 100 teachers: those100 teachers, when empowered, can teach
humane education to 3,000 children each year, in multiple lessons
With heightened concern about violence, there is a real
opportunity to train teachers, as is being done by the California
Teachers Association Region 2. This organization has established a
“violence-free network,” and in 2001 hosted a well-attended humane
education seminar for teachers.
Scheduling workshops to provide tools for other
professionals, including community college faculty, is usually
easier to arrange than scheduling events for grade school teachers,
and is another good starting point.
The Humane Education Guidebook starts with a brief overview
of the history of the humane movement, focusing on the 19th century
The next section “understanding the roots of humane behavior”
is especially well done. Included are two caveats which will help the
enthusiastic but inexperienced humane educator to avoid burnout.
“Children who grow up in chaotic, unpredictable
circumstances,” the authors warn, “and especially children who are
abused and neglected, often cannot develop their innate capacities
to feel empathy with the joys or sorrows of another.”
This rings true with current research on neurodevelopment and
the psychophysiology of abuse, which indicates that there is a
specific window of opportunity for children to learn to trust and
develop a conscience. For those who are repeatedly abused or
severely neglected during that time period, physical changes occur in
the brain that seem to be irreversible and forever halt development
in those areas. For those children less severely damaged by abuse and
neglect, there is hope, with repeated positive interventions.
The second caveat is that, “As humane educators we are
planting seeds and cannot realistically expect to change the world
with a single presentation.”
Chapter two provides a truly excellent overview of the
cognitive characteristics of different age groups for the humane
educator who does not have a formal education background. The
implications of cognitive characteristics for lesson planning are
explained in an easy-to-digest format. Sample learning activities
and strategies for each age group are presented, with the typical
attention span noted. Every humane educator who teaches in the
classroom should follow the expert and solid recommendations in this
section, to avoid making the most common mistakes that guest
presenters make in the classroom, “teaching” without reaching
anyone, because the lesson is not age appropriate.
Also addressed are means of promoting “multiple
intelligences.” The theory of multiple intelligences, developed in
1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner at Harvard, suggests that there are
actually eight kinds of “smart,” and that teachers should help each
kind of intelligence to develop. One of the eight intelligences
Gardner identified was naturalist intelligence: “the human ability
to discriminate among living things as well as sensitivity to other
features of the natural world,” which can actually serve as another
justification for including humane education in the curriculum.
However, the guidebook mislabels multiple intelligences as
types of “learning styles,” which is a different, but closely
related concept, referring to one’s preferred or most efficient
method of learning, regardless of the type of intelligence involved.
Chapter three deals with the topics which humane educators
can address, with guidelines for age appropriateness. Twenty-one
topics are suggested. Most, but not all, are traditional,
focusing on companion animals. Chapter four touches on handling
controversial issues within the context of how to design a
Chapters three and four could be expanded in future editions
to cover more topics in depth (such as dissection), and to give more
varied and detailed techniques for conducting lessons that
deliberately focus on a controversy, though this is touched upon.
Also useful would be very specific pointers for dealing with
students who reveal abuse of any kind, students in grief, students
upset about a parent’s actions, students who have witnessed a crime
against animals, and the parent, teacher, or administrator who
objects the next day to something discussed during a presentation.
Some of these types of scenarios are raised in chapter one,
under “Know Your Agency’s Policies,” but are not addressed-which
could do more to scare than empower a beginning humane educator.
The lesson format section needs to be updated with
information about the current national standards for what children
are expected to learn at each grade level. Many teachers are
required to indicate on lesson plans what state or national standard
they are addressing with each lesson, and a humane education lesson
must be integrated into this framework.
Chapter five focuses on preparing to present, and primarily
discusses presenting in the traditional classroom style, with the
educator up front, and the students listening and participating.
Nice additions would be classroom management techniques for dealing
with disruptive behavior (even as simple as moving to stand next to
the student who is being disruptive), and some discussion of newer
classroom formats such as “jigsaw” groups, in which students in
groups each read one part of an article, then verbally share and
combine their knowledge, and “webquests,” a combination of role play
and guided Internet exploration.
Chapter six covers how to contact schools, advertise to
schools, schedule schools, and more, with multiple sample flyers,
reservation sheets, confirmation letters, evaluation forms and
press releases included. Science fairs are touched upon, but
without any indication of what to do about either inhumane
experiments or inadequate science fair guidelines which fail to
preclude cruelty to animals.
Chapter seven has complete sample presentations for the 21
topics outlined in chapter four and will undoubtedly be the most
widely used section of this handbook. These sample lessons vary in
their clarity of directions and educational merit.
The sample lesson offered about “animal organizations”
states, quite inaccurately, “Among shelters, there are two kinds:
Limited Access (no kill) and Unlimited Access.”
In fact, there are hundreds of limited access shelters which
are not no-kill, and some no-kill shelters, usually serving small
communities, which are open access. More useful categorizations
include adoption centers, care-for-life shelters for special needs
animals, rehabilitation shelters for wild/exotic animals, and
organizations without a central facility which do foster care,
spay/neuter and adoption.
This same sample lesson points out that many animal rights
organizations are “paper organizations,” meaning that they do
advocacy rather than hands-on work, but implying that advocacy is
perhaps less legitimately of benefit to animals: “If they are a
‘paper organization,’ do they at least give grants to or financially
support in some way organizations that do care for animals?” Yet
advocacy is in essence humane education of the public, and if
effective, sometimes eliminates the need for hands-on care.
Also stated: “The U.S. government classifies liberationists
as terrorists.” This too is incorrect. The FBI has identified the
so-called “Animal Liberation Front” as a terrorist group, but in so
doing has been careful to distinguish people holding a philosophy of
animal liberation from those who commit arsons and burglary in the
name of the cause.
This lesson needs to be re-examined for needless bias and
Sure to be controversial with the readership of ANIMAL PEOPLE
is the lesson on euthanasia, which includes a first person account
stating, “I believed in no-kill shelters until I worked at one.” The
author’s main premise is not an objection to poor practices
encountered. Indeed she states the animals were well cared for and
received excellent medical attention, with aggressive and terminally
ill animals euthanized according to rigorous standards. She states
she left because “I wanted to be a shelter worker again, not a
glorified collector,” a defamatory characterization of no-kill
workers that children probably won’t understand anyway, not being
familiar with industry jargon. The article continues with numerous
other arguments. The lesson plan doesn’t explain how to use the
article during the lesson and is unclear elsewhere.
While the concept of including sample lessons is excellent,
the lessons need to be more carefully selected to represent the very
best in humane education.
One minor disappointment with the guide is its cover. Though
there is a racial mix, the cover features two adult females, and
three children, two of them also female, all looking prim and
proper. This seems a mistake in a field that still struggles to
effectively reach all social classes and to recruit male
participation. Also featured are two cats and two dogs, but no
other animals, another unfortunate choice, given the broad reach of
The foreword notes that the authors plan to improve the
Guidebook in further editions, and value feedback.
[Finch trains and mentors teachers for Maricopa Community
Colleges in Phoenix, Arizona; oversees several portal humane
websites including <teachingandanimals.org>; and is a former
director of the National Association for Humane and Environmental