A Humane Education After School Program Improves Empathy and Attitudes Towards Animals [Dominican University of California]
Humane education programs aim to teach participants about the ethical treatment of both wild and domesticated animals and to foster respect for and appreciation of animals. These programs are increasingly popular and offered at many animal shelters in the United States and internationally. Previous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of these programs in improving children’s treatment of pets (Tardif-Williams & Bosacki, 2015). This study evaluated a semester long after school program offered at a humane society in Northern California. Two hundred and twenty nine participants (27 males) from 10 to 17 years old were enrolled in afterschool service clubs at the animal shelter over the course of 9 semesters from Spring 2014 through the Spring of 2018. The clubs met for 1.5 hours once a week, every other week for one semester. Two service clubs were offered each semester and each club had 12 students. The students engaged in hands on projects for the shelter, developed and hosted fund raising activities, participated in advocacy lessons, and depending of the age of the participant assisted in the care of some of the animals at the shelter. To assess the effects of participating in the afterschool club, on the first day of the club the students completed a 12 item scale developed by the researchers to measure humane attitudes towards animals and the Bryant Index of Empathy for Children and Adolescents (Bryant, 1982). The students completed the same measures at the last meeting of the club. Participants improved on both the measure of attitudes towards animals, which was the focus of the programs, and the measure of empathy. The improvement in empathy towards other people is particularly striking as that was not a focus of the program, and suggests that humane education can play an important role in increasing pro-social attitudes.
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