Like most parents in this strange moment, I’ve spent the last few months watching my daughter complete her senior year and graduation ceremony largely online. This summer she had planned to work as a camp counselor to earn spending money for college but the camp, like many around the country, was cancelled. Instead, she’s been taking long walks with our dog, sewing safety masks, staying connected with friends mainly through social media, picking freshman year courses and preparing for her own bright future.
With the school year over, I have also been thinking about other parents, with younger children, now scrambling to find suitable alternatives to camp and the other activities that make summer such a special time in the lives of young people. I see this happening all around me, among neighbors, colleagues, friends and within my family. The coronavirus risk has forced many institutions to cancel conventional camps, leaving parents to search for other ways to keep their children safe, engaged and motivated–to learn, to develop social and other skills, to grow and to have fun together.
I’m glad to say that the broader humane movement has responded. Online camps operated by local societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals have emerged as a wonderful option for young people staying at home this summer. They get a chance to interact with others, learn about animals, humane issues, and nature, and to explore future educational or career pathways.
Online summer camps are not the only innovation in the field, either. Humane educators with local and national organizations have also risen to the challenge by developing a variety of online alternatives to classroom visits, shelter tours, and in-person presentations. Farm Sanctuary, for example, is offering free online tours and classes in flexible 20, 30, 45, or 60 minute sessions.
In addition, many publishers of humane-themed literature are allowing authors to share their works online. There are free stories available from the animal welfare-focused publisher, Who Chains You, among others. One of its authors, Stephanie Itle-Clark, has created a YouTube channel where parents and educators can download Reading Rainbow-esque read alouds of picture books. The Humane Education Coalition offers a large free toolkit complete with book titles and films. Similarly, RedRover, the publisher of KindNews has offered its latest issue for free public use, along with other resources. Our friends at HEART have also made more materials available online. There is plenty on offer out there for adults interested in pursuing online certification as humane educators, too.
We’ve also made some appealing education resources for summer available through our magazine All Animals, including an article on careers in animal welfare with a sidebar aimed at kids, a story on fun craft projects for pets and backyard wildlife, a reading list for older students, and a great activities checklist with suggestions for interesting and rewarding ways to help animals during the summer break.
Schools in the fall are expected to open in many communities and I’m hopeful that my daughter will be in New York for college, but it is just as likely that the 2020-2021 school year will be conducted in a way quite unlike any other. Field trips, assemblies, and guest speakers will probably not take a traditional path, for example. That’s why, to maintain their high level of community engagement and educational offerings, humane societies, animal protection organizations and humane education groups are refocusing their programs.
The coronavirus threat has created real chaos for animal protection organizations, as in the larger society, but it has also catalyzed some positive changes, and in the case of the humane education sector, it promises to reshape the field. Organizations are rethinking their engagement with the public and developing new methods and technologies for reaching audiences both young and old. That’s good for the field, and it’s especially great for the coming generations who will benefit from the richness of the materials and opportunities coming online so rapidly.
For additional humane education content, visit:
Academy of Prosocial Learning https://www.prosocialacademy.org/
Association of Professional Humane Educators https://www.aphe.org/
Humane Education Coalition https://www.hecoalition.org/
Red Rover https://redrover.org/