AWI Offers Free Animal-Friendly Lesson Plans, Publications for Virtual Back to School

Photo by Monkey Business Images
Photo by Monkey Business Images

Washington, DC—As many teachers virtually welcome their students back to school this month, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) offers a variety of free digital educational resources for students of all ages that encourage respect and empathy for all living creatures.

For teachers of young children (kindergarten to second grade), AWI provides colorful, heartwarming children's books: Kamie Cat’s Terrible Night chronicles the misadventures of a lost cat. Pablo Puppy’s Search for the Perfect Person is a story about a puppy and an older dog living in a shelter. Accompanying activities include printable board games and coloring books. Both publications are also available in Spanish.

Another book, The Boy Who Loved All Living Things, is a tale inspired by real events from the childhood of Nobel Prize winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer. Together, these three books—created especially for AWI by award-winning author and illustrator, Sheila Hamanaka—teach students about proper pet care and the importance of being compassionate to animals.

In association with the Kenya Wildlife Service, AWI produced A Dangerous Life, a graphic novel aimed at middle school–age readers, written and illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka with Lisa Barile, Rosalie Knox, and Julie Lien. The story, set in Kenya, focuses on the true costs of the ivory trade, including its conservation impacts, and the significance of the family bond to both animals and humans. In collaboration with teacher Nancy Kellum Brown, AWI has produced a free accompanying lesson plan, which includes activity cards and worksheets that can be used on their own or in conjunction with an interactive notebook. These lessons are applicable to several disciplines, including science, environmental education, social studies, and language arts for grades 6 and up.

For instructors teaching in high school and beyond, AWI offers The Magic of Touch by veterinarian and ethologist Viktor Reinhardt, and his wife, Annie. This book reviews the scientific and professional literature to present evidence on the calming, stress-buffering, and life-enhancing effect of touch among animals, among humans, and between animals and humans. AWI has collaborated with Nancy Kellum Brown to produce a lesson plan for The Magic of Touch that is appropriate for courses involving animal behavior, ethology, environmental studies, and philosophy. All books are available in print or as PDF downloads.

AWI also provides free copies of these books to libraries and animal shelters.

To promote alternatives to dissection, AWI recommends state-of-the-art computer programs, tablet and smartphone apps, and three-dimensional models and charts for a range of animals. More than 12 million animals are used for dissection in the United States each year, including frogs, rats, cats, fish, and fetal pigs. The procurement of animals for dissection disrupts ecosystems and causes unnecessary suffering and death.

“Biology is a fascinating field of discovery,” said AWI President Cathy Liss. “There are a variety of ways to encourage a budding interest in the life sciences without sacrificing animals or a quality education.”

Research shows that humane education alternatives are more cost-effective than dissection and produce superior learning outcomes for students. Options include studying animals in their natural habitats or establishing temporary habitats to study smaller invertebrates found locally, such as worms and insects, whose habits are not as disrupted by captivity and who can be released following observation. One very effective way for students to learn vertebrate anatomy and physiology is by building anatomical models with clay, polystyrene, or other materials. Other recommendations for nonlethal study of animal physiology can be found in AWI’s Humane Education brochure. To order copies of all free materials, including books, lesson plans, posters, and brochures, follow the directions here.

Media Contact Information

Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128,

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