My previously active life, like so many, came to a halt with the advent of COVIDS restrictions. I write these words with the full realization that staying home with scrumptious vegan fare and a working internet would be an absolute luxury to so many facing housing and food instability and job insecurity.
I do normally reach approximately 30,000 with in-person Animal Hero Kids kindness education presentations every year via school assemblies and public presentations. The necessary slowing down of my schedule resulted in more than putting on a few pandemic pounds, it actually grew an idea to fruition. This pandemic pivot will become a mainstay of Animal Hero Kids education arm now and in the future with or without pandemics.
My pioneering pandemic pivot is global partnerships with legitimate animal sanctuaries to bring virtual Animal Hero Kids Kindness Education programs to schools using the expertise and curriculum resources I have curated over my 41 years of teaching.
Dear reader, for you to realize the degree of my delight for the potential of these collaborative programs which combine “meeting” rescued farm animals and the heartwarming, youth empowering stories of animal rescue and lessons from the “Animal Hero Kids Voices for the Voiceless” book which was recently updated in Volume 2 and an ebook format, you would have to know a bit of my history.
Ever since I realized the way to prevent animal cruelty is to foster empathy at a young age I have dreamed of opening a small sanctuary and education center near a major school district. When kids actually do meet the fortunate individuals who were rescued from the animal-based agriculture industry, it is often a mind-changing event. When youth are given an opportunity to realize everyone is an individual with their own personality, like their companion animals at home, like all species are, including humans, the result is resounding success fostering empathy of the highest degree.
Empathy is the core of humane education goals, I refer to this practice as kindness education since it is an easier concept to comprehend by the majority of the population.
It was fitting the first collaborative virtual course was completed during World Animal Hero Kids month. Grade 3- 6 students in two school districts in Connecticut were the first group to benefit from a partnership between Animal Hero Kids, JP Farm Animal Sanctuary, local parents, and the Climate Healers non-profit.
The head of the school district purchased ebook versions of “Animal Hero Kids Voices for the Voiceless” for the students to use individually on their home devices-just this action alone is enough to make all of the time I spent writing this almost 300-page book worthwhile! I also mailed out actual copies of the book for each school library for free as part of Animal Hero Kids “gift an Animal Hero Kids book to every school library” program.
It is challenging to ensure my virtual programs still remain as interactive and engaging as possible. Lovey popped in to say hello as did the companion animals from the student’s homes in the zoom class. Sharing the screen option allowed for high-resolution images to be shown to go along with the stories, classroom lessons, and informational graphics. One of my favorite points was when I encouraged submissions for the “ Veganza Animal Hero” song challenge, after I stated all types of music and instruments were welcome, we were all treated to twin sisters playing a trombone and trumpet marching through their dining room as their rescued dog and cat watched from the sidelines. Remembering to instill fun and play in the day of students who may be tired of sitting in front of a computer all day as so many schools return once again to virtual teachings is vital. On the last day, we each brought easily available and affordable vegan treats to enjoy together, taking turns to show what we were eating.
A virtual “Veganza Animal Hero” Song Challenge discussion turns into an impromptu trombone and trumpet serenade for a school program.
In my -so far failed- struggle to afford the cost of a sanctuary and education center for school field trips, I discovered the answer is right here at my fingertips with the potential to reach a far larger audience than with a local destination. So ends the tale of my epiphanic, pioneering, pandemic pivot or simply put the creation of another effective, kindness to all Animal Hero Kids initiative.