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Humane Education Conferences








Curriculum for Children: Jewish Humane Education Kit

Teaching Aids




First Conference

In January 1998, CHAI and the Ministry of Education sponsored the first Humane Education Conference ever held in Israel, at the Community Center in Lod, near the airport. CHAI's conference was an outgrowth of our successful 1994 conference "Preventing Violence in Society Through Education," on the link between violence toward animals and toward people. The 1998 conference represented the first step in the process of launching a program to train and certify teachers in humane education so that they, in turn, can train other teachers around the country. The Ministry of Education provided credit to teachers who attended the conference, which translates into a salary increase. The Ministry also agreed to pay the salaries of teachers who complete the certification program and become certified as humane education specialists. To lead this conference, CHAI hired Rae Sikora of the Center for Compassionate Living in Maine, an organization that specializes in humane education and conflict resolution training.


Why Humane Education?

Children learn far more by example than by spoken words. When a teacher asks children to be kind and compassionate toward other living beings, but inadvertently causes them to suffer, the student ignores the words and copies the behavior he or she sees. The teacher who preaches kindness to others, but allows children to crowd around a dog and frighten her, for example, or who steps on an insect in the classroom rather than opening a window and letting the insect go free, has taught his or her students the wrong message. Providing teachers with humane education materials alone is not enough. The attitude of the teacher is as important as the facts he or she transmits. Teachers develop a deep understanding that every lifestyle choice made by an individual can have either a positive or a negative effect on our world — on animals, the environment, and other people. We show teachers how to help their students make compassionate choices. We have embarked on this program of humane education training for teachers in order to ensure that the materials we provide them with will be properly and effectively used to the greatest extent possible.


Training Technique

At our conference, teachers were asked to identify the factors (family, peers, media) that had formed their attitudes about others who were different from them, and about animals and the environment. They were then shown videos and photos that showed the problems for animals and the environment, created by humans, that threaten the survival of our planet. Eyes closed, they were asked to visualize what a more compassionate world for themselves and others might look and feel like. Finally, they were challenged to suggest small steps they were willing to take today to bring about a kinder reality for all. There were exercises in listening and communicating more effectively with students, encouraging critical thinking, and developing the skill to discuss different points of view without creating conflict. Specific exercises allowed the participants to feel for themselves what animals feel under artificial circumstances created by humans — when they are imprisoned in cages, for example.


Positive Reaction

At first, the teachers were shocked to learn what widespread animal suffering and environmental damage can result from our accustomed daily habits and lifestyle. They were shown how they can have a powerful impact on the minds and future direction of hundreds, if not thousands, of young people in changing the situation, and they began to readily absorb information about alternative, more compassionate lifestyles. Finally, the teachers were given specific humane education ideas and techniques they can use in their classrooms. The reaction to our pilot conference was extremely positive and showed that there are many teachers interested in this topic and willing to learn more about it. We succeeded in reaching the teachers' minds and hearts and vastly increased their awareness of animal suffering and of the part humans can play in adding to or relieving it.





Second Humane Education Conference

Because the reaction was so positive, CHAI held another humane education conference near Tel Aviv in July, 1999. Many of those who attended the original conference returned for additional  training.


This conference, held at Beit Berl in Kfar Saba, was a great success. Of the 80 teachers who attended, more than 30 signed up for a continuing education class that CHAI will offer over the next school year. The three-day conference, entitled "Toward a Better World," covered the issues of cat and dog overpopulation, human responsibility for animals, animals in laboratories, factory farming, animals in entertainment, and the effect of our treatment of animals on the environment and on human health. The teaching approach was participatory, including interactive exercises, videos, discussions, and efforts to encourage the teachers to promote critical thinking and responsible choices on the part of their students.


CHAI and Hakol Chai would like to create a core group of trained humane education specialists who will form a powerful movement to spread this knowledge and understanding to other teachers throughout the country. These humane education efforts have the potential to achieve a great deal, but they are expensive because we must translate and dub videos, print materials, fly speakers to Israel, hire simultaneous translators, and so on.


The impact on consciousness about animals cannot be underestimated, because each teacher reaches hundreds more. We are committed to identifying and training a core group of teachers who can spread these concepts around the country.