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April 26, 2011 > Ohlone Humane Society: Toward a better world

Ohlone Humane Society: Toward a better world

By Nancy Lyon

Each spring Ohlone Humane Society (OHS) reaches out to more than 40 Fremont, Union City and Newark public elementary schools offering to sponsor K-6 grade classroom subscriptions of the KIND News - a nationally recognized award-winning Youth program publication of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). KIND News is an acronym for "Kids In Nature's Defense," a wonderful bi-monthly upbeat newspaper that provides good news for kids during the school year.

Since 1973, this HSUS affiliate program of the National Association of Humane and Environmental Educators has worked to educate young people about kindness and respect for all animals and their natural habitats, activate youth in efforts to protect animals, and provide teaching materials, professional development, and other support to teachers and humane educators.

The concept of humane education is a form of character education that has its roots in the late nineteenth century movement introduced to American schoolchildren on a broad scale by George Angell, the founder of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He was responsible for the widespread distribution of humane storybooks to public schools, including Anna Sewell's famous Black Beauty, 3 million copies of which had been circulated by 1909. In 1882, he began the formation of "Bands of Mercy," groups of students and teachers who pledged kindness to animals and engaged in activities to prevent cruelty. By 1916, an estimated 103,000 Bands of Mercy had been formed.

Currently, the primary local source of humane education comes from humane societies like OHS and animal shelters. Through classroom presentations and working with programs such the HSUS Youth that have a central theme that connects the belief that just as helping children develop good character is an integral part of their education, treating animals responsibly and humanely is an essential part of good character.

In recognition of this extremely important mission, the California Education Code includes the following directive that each school year teachers must include in their curriculum activities that support the following edict "...to impress upon the mind of pupils the harmonious relations of kindness toward domestic pets and the humane treatment of living creatures."

There can be little doubt that this compassionate and wise ruling is a very important part of a young child's education. Yet effectively implementing this teaching can strain available funding especially when school and state budgets are facing a devastating financial crunch.

For the past 13 years, OHS has offered assistance to local elementary school teachers and school librarians to help meet this state mandate. Through classroom sponsorships of the KIND News' humane education program, children learn about caring for the animals in their homes and communities. It is about fostering kindness, respect and empathy for both human and nonhuman animals, and looking after the environment and its diverse habitats and wildlife. In these stressful times, it includes providing very important skills for non-violent resolution of conflicts.

KIND Club projects include recycling, making welcome packets for new students, collecting supplies for animal shelters, making earth friendly cleaners, and educating others about responsible animal care. It also provides programs that "develop self-esteem by teaching children that their actions can make a difference, that no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted."

A subscription also includes KIND Teacher, a resource book of reproducible worksheets, KIND ID cards for the students, a classroom poster, and historical trivia, fun facts, and tips on helping animals and the environment. A while back a participating teacher wrote, "You have given my third-graders a true love of reading. Even reluctant readers anticipate KIND News day."

Humane education has a philosophical component that strives to establish a sense of personal responsibility and to make the world a better, more compassionate place. With this important goal in mind how can you help?

If you are a teacher or have children in school who would be interested in participating in this immensely valuable program contact OHS by the close of the 2011 school year. If you are beyond our service area, information on classroom sponsorships can be located online at youth@humanesociety.org or by calling 1-866-512-3111. Ask about the Adopt-A-Classroom program.

As a volunteer-based charitable organization, Ohlone Humane Society can also use your support to be able to continue to offer these important services to the community. Please consider helping by becoming a member and possibly becoming active in one of our many animal welfare programs. Let's continue to work together toward that better world.

OHS may be reached at 510-792-4587 or through our website ohlonehumanesociety.org

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