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June 14, 2005 > Unleashing The Kindness In Every Child

Unleashing The Kindness In Every Child

by Nancy Lyon

In a world where children encounter violence in far too many aspects of their daily lives, there is a movement to counteract the destructive effects of this exposure. The National Association for Humane and Environmental Education (NAHEE) serves as the youth education affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). NAHEE is an award winning, non-profit organization whose mission is to instil good character in children. Their strong emphasis is on the humane treatment of animals and respect for natural habitat, by providing effective, high quality publications and programs to teachers, students, and animal sheltering professionals

Humane education is about learning to care for the animals in our 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. Unlike science and other academic disciplines, humane education has a philosophical component that strives to establish a sense of responsibility and make the world a better, more humane place.

Certainly a wonderful yet hardly new concept -- humane education was introduced to American schoolchildren on a broad scale in the late nineteenth century by George Angell, the founder of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Angell 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.

The work continues, and today the primary sources of humane education activity in the United States continue to be local animal shelters and other humane agencies such as Ohlone Humane Society, often working in partnership with schools and supported by national organizations such as NAHEE.

NAHEE states that although humane education methodologies vary--a central theme links all of these: 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.

Included among NAHEE's many offerings are KIND News, an award-winning classroom newspaper for elementary-school children K-6 grade, also offered in Spanish, study/activity guides for teens including their own publication Humane Teen, and Teach Kids to Care professional development workshops for animal care and control personnel. A fantastic and humorous website can be found at that children will love to explore - my 9-year-old granddaughter and I had great fun with the creative interactive stories and games. Each included a lesson geared to the age level of the children - this "oldie" had a great time too.

KIND News is an acronym for "Kids In Nature's Defense," a wonderful weekly newspaper that during the school year provides good news for kids. It features articles, puzzles and celebrity interviews that teach children the value of kindness and respect to animals, the environment and to each other. It is focused on teaching fairness, compassion, and responsibility; attributes that encourage good character in children. NAHEE 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."

This compassionate organization offers reproducible lesson packets, high quality publications such as Kind News, videos, games, and programs to teachers and their students. There is a reasonable yearly fee involved and you can help in your community by providing a KIND News gift subscription to a teacher on their Adopt-a-Classroom waiting list.

The Ohlone Humane Society values the teachings of this organization so highly that it is listed with NAHEE as a program supporter and offers a number of sponsorships for Tri-City classes K-6 and elementary school libraries. If you are a teacher or have children in school who would be interested in participating in the program contact OHS at 510-792-4587.

We invite you to visit and explore the NAHEE website at

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