The AnimalSmart™ Humane Education Program
In 2018, the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society launched the first edition of a humane education program called AnimalSmart™. Today, this free online learning resource consists of videos, experiential learning activities, and complete lesson plans developed to foster empathy, promote a sense of responsibility, and inspire connection with animals and the environment. The program also supports mutual respect among learners, collaboration with their classmates and family, and encourages participation in their local and global communities.
The AnimalSmart™ Primary Lesson Plan manual, developed in partnership with educators, is a learning resource geared towards teachers, community group leaders, and parents of children in Grades-1-3. Each lesson includes supporting online resources, and connections to the Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum expectations, which will enable an educator to deliver engaging lessons.
In addition, the Primary manual is being translated into French and Spanish. These translations will allow educators and students, locally and globally, to teach and learn about humane education through innovative lessons. In partnership with educators and Indigenous Consultants, we are currently developing the Junior (Grades 4-6) and Intermediate (Grades 7-8) manuals to integrate Indigenous Perspectives throughout the lesson plans.
Lesson and Character Development Videos are also available. Several participation-focused Video Lessons have been created to support independent and group learning in the classroom or with family and friends. Learners join AnimalSmart™ spokes-kid, Emerson, and spokes-dog, Buddy, along with some of their friends, in an uplifting exploration of feelings, empathy, and safety. These online resources also delve into what animals need to have a good life. These engaging videos inspire learners to live compassionately and to consider the needs and the well-being of animals and our shared environments.
In the Character Development Series, students explore traits like empathy, respect, honesty, compassion, and responsibility as they consider the interconnectedness of the living world. These learners also explore what can be done as the next generation of community and global leaders to affect their world positively.
The new AnimalSmart™ Junior Lesson Plan Manual is currently in development. This new Junior AnimalSmart™ manual The Junior manual intends to provide educators with lessons and materials that include the diversity of Indigenous art, but for Grades 4, 5, and 6. The AnimalSmart™ team, in partnership and consultation with educators and Indigenous contributors, is developing a Junior Manual for students and educators. This collaboration seeks to integrate Indigenous Ways of Knowing, respectfully and authentically.
The manual intends to provide educators with lessons and materials that include the diversity of Indigenous art, perspectives, challenges, wisdom, and past and present prominent figures and icons. These lessons seek to foster an understanding of humans as part of an integrated and interdependent living network of people, animals, and the environment. This interconnectedness is the foundation of humane education. We understand that these ideals of living in harmony with all life have always been and continue to be central to Indigenous Worldviews. These teachings are integral and essential for everyday student learning.
We wish to develop a resource that educates both teachers and students, as well as breaks down the barriers of how to introduce Indigenous Perspectives into the classroom. This program is not seeking to be an authority or a primary source for Indigenous Values, Beliefs, and Traditional Knowledge, but a stepping stone to developing meaningful relationships and guidance with local Indigenous Communities and Leaders.
AnimalSmart™ & Truth and Reconciliation
The understanding of the world as an interconnected and interdependent living network is something that both Indigenous cultures and humane education share. But it’s important to note that humane education is quite young compared to the long, rich history of Traditional Indigenous Knowledge which spans thousands of years.
As a program of the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society, the AnimalSmart™ Humane Education Program is committed to Truth and Reconciliation. AnimalSmart™ recognizes the important role of education in the reconciliation process. The AnimalSmart™ team is currently working alongside Indigenous consultants to develop lesson plans which embed Traditional Ways of Knowing and Being, celebrate Indigenous brilliance and explore modern and traditional culture.
In 2021, Canada marked September 30th as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which also coincides with Orange Shirt Day. On this day we encourage you to show your support by wearing orange and by learning more about Truth and Reconciliation.
Below are a few resources to get you started:
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action
- Orange Shirt Society
- Indigenous Corporate Training Inc.
- University of Alberta, Indigenous Canada
Resources for Parents and Teachers
AnimalSmart™ Primary Videos and Lesson Plans
The Ontario SPCA would like to thank the working group including Katrina Bies, teacher candidate; Kayla Doucette, teacher candidate; Rachel Greenstein, teacher candidate; Hannah Houston, teacher candidate; and Jillian Gear, teacher candidate. Finally, the Ontario SPCA wishes to acknowledge the extensive writing, revising and editing by Dr. Kristen Ferguson (Schulich School of Education, Nipissing University), as contributing editor.