In the wake of increased violence toward both people and animals, nonprofit organizations are taking it upon themselves to ensure that training in compassion, justice and kindness is happening in a classroom environment. Since 1999, Bridges of Respect has worked to build bridges between people, animals, and the environment by providing interactive humane education presentations.
Bridges of Respect offers humane education to classrooms across the state of Minnesota, grades 6 and up. Classes are modeled on the curriculum of the International Institute for Humane Education, which describes humane education as “a lens, body of knowledge, and set of tools and strategies for teaching about human rights, animal protection, environmental stewardship, and cultural issues as interconnected and integral dimensions of a just, healthy society,” which “…instills the desire and capacity to live with compassion, integrity, and wisdom, but also provides the knowledge and tools to put our values into action in meaningful, far-reaching ways so that we can find solutions that work for all.”
“These presentations are designed to inspire critical and creative thinking, help students grapple with tough issues, and come up with viable solutions,” said Bridges of Respect volunteer Shannon Kimball, “We want to instill in students the feeling that they can change the world. A lot of what happens in the world is within our control, and we want to empower students.”
According to Kimball, once teachers have an introductory presentation, they tend to offer Bridges of Respect to come back at least on an annual basis. The most popular introductory presentation is “The Circle of Compassion,” which examines the correlation between social movements and current efforts to increase protections for animals. Other introductory classes include “Beyond Violence,” and “Ethics and Environment.”
Bridges of Respect also provides issue-specific presentations, such as “Our Food, Our World,” “Science, Ethics and Animal Experimentation,” “Lions, Tigers, & Bears: A Program on Animals in Entertainment,” and “Chimps, Gorillas, and Orangutans: Great Apes in Our Midst.” The group offers the ability to elaborate on a number of topics and tailor presentations for different age groups.
The classrooms that integrate Bridges of Respect are limited only by the teacher’s imagination. The group has presented to classes ranging from language arts to science to keyboarding.
We want to offer character training, and real lasting social change,” explained Kimball.
For more information on Bridges of Respect, or to request a presentation, go to www.bridgesofrespect.org.