Humane Education

photo by Willamette National Forest

Humane education can be defined as the teaching of compassion and empathy for all living beings and respect for their habitats. AWI encourages teachers and educators to incorporate animal-friendly science education into their lessons and teach respect for— rather than exploitation of—animals. The study of animals in their natural habitats can be particularly educational for students and can even be done in urban environments—such as observing birds at feeders, squirrels in parks, and insects on plants.

In an effort to connect children with the natural world, some animals (such as hermit crabs, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals) have become popular classroom pets. Unfortunately, these animals don’t always receive adequate care, and some are taken from the wild in a manner that is inhumane and ecologically harmful. Read more in the AWI Quarterly about the problems associated with hermit crabs in captivity. Instead of purchasing animals for the classroom, teachers and students can set up temporary habitats in the classroom to study smaller invertebrates found locally, such as earthworms and insects, whose habits are not disrupted by captivity and who can be released following the classroom observations.

The Animal Welfare Institute promotes humane education by offering publications and activities for students of a variety of ages and providing resources for alternatives to dissection.


Learn more about free publications AWI provides for libraries, shelters, and teachers, as well as materials for children.

Lesson Plans

Explore the lesson plans and activities AWI offers in tandem with our publications for children.

Alternatives to Dissection

More than 12 million animals, including frogs, cats, rats, fetal pigs, fish and a variety of invertebrates are used for dissection in the US each year. Learn more about a variety of alternative methods designed to replace dissection.

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