When I was younger, I pored over volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica to peer into animal worlds that I could not experience personally. The knowledge I gained formed a lifelong appreciation for nature and the animals that live within it.
Youth today don’t retreat to libraries and revel in reference books the same way you or I did.
So when it comes to our mission of animal welfare, reinforcing our work with a dedicated spate of educational initiatives is more crucial than ever to long-term change for animals.
Our Animal Action Education program educates and inspires more than 5 million educators and students through projects in more than 25 countries worldwide. Our materials are produced in more than 12 languages with regionally tailored and timely materials that address everything from individual species to the compelling issues of our times.
When the United Nations decreed this year as the year of climate change, we knew we had to add to our extensive repertoire with a new Climate Change and Animals series of teaching resources exploring the impacts of climate change on animals and people.
As the New York Times noted last spring, “schools around the world are beginning to tackle the difficult issue of global warming, teaching students how the planet is changing and encouraging them to think about what they can do to help slow that process.”
We rolled out our new curricula to educators in the United Kingdom, then to the US and Germany alongside the recent UN climate change summit and our announcement that IFAW has joined the Climate Action Network.
Our introduction and first unit in the series include two student magazines, lessons and worksheets which introduce the theme and address in particular the impacts of climate change on the marine biome. The lessons and experiments within the packs will encourage students to examine some of concepts such as feedback loops, temperature and salinity in driving convection currents, and carbon dioxide’s role in increasing ocean acidity. Later this year, we’ll be releasing additional units focusing on wetlands and forests for older students as well as a new introductory unit for younger students.
US Congressman Michael Honda recently introduced the Climate Change Education Act in the House of Representatives, noting: “As a former teacher, I understand the importance of imparting knowledge to help people make wise decisions. By providing people clear information about climate change in a variety of forms, we can take away the fear and the sense of helplessness, and move people to take action.”
Our materials, which are aligned with a wide range of national science standards, provide information based on sound science combined with hands-on activities that allow students to develop understanding and analyze for themselves the issues, impacts and potential solutions.
Learning about our environment and the plight of all animals – including humans – in the face of climate change should not be a political issue. It is one of civic responsibility.
We are confident these new resources will have impact.
We’ve learned a lot about the impact our AAE materials have been having since I wrote about the launching of our Cats, Dogs, and Us curricula last World Animal Day.
In the United States, our partnership with the classroom news magazine Time For Kids (TFK) brought materials to 45,700 classrooms last year (more than 2.5 million kids in grades K-8). More than 90 percent of teachers surveyed by TFK said they incorporated the IFAW curriculum into their classroom lessons and 72 percent reported that participating students demonstrated improved knowledge and attitudes toward animals.
The results of a recent University of Denver study showed that AAE materials raised empathy levels in children, and that this growth was statistically significant.
In another evaluation, US educators responded that our curricula materials met IFAW’s stated goals of educating youth in treating animals with respect, expressing sympathy and compassion, and taking responsibility for animals. What’s more, since teachers often emphasize the difficulties of adding extra materials into an already overloaded curriculum, we were thrilled to learn that teachers said our materials were easy to integrate.
Other big milestones:
AAE whale materials were adapted and are being used on all TUICruises, a large German cruise line, as edutainment for their Kids Club.
AAE programs have been developed for communities struggling to live in harmony with elephants in Malawi and for schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where IFAW has partnered with the United Nations Development Program to facilitate humane community development.
New and ongoing collaboration with education authorities, international organizations, youth groups and educational partners has extended our reach well beyond IFAW’s regional offices, bringing the benefits of environmental and humane education to educators and students in more than 75 countries.
When I reflect on the incredible work of our global education program, I think of the famous saying: “We will protect only what we appreciate. We will appreciate only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”
Our youth is our future. And we are charged with teaching them how important it is to protect animals in this ever-changing world.
Learn more about climate change and animals and take our pledge on our education pages.
Article source: IFAW