How to Incorporate Animal Rights Into Your Elective Classes

In some schools, elective course subjects extend beyond the standard art or foreign language classes. More and more schools are incorporating a wider range of electives or bonus classes to help diversify student skills and knowledge. Some schools refer to these as “exploratory classes,” and the subject matter often diverges from the typical K–12 academic regimen and instead reflects specific teacher or student areas of interest.

If your school offers teachers the opportunity to create their own elective or exploratory classes, take advantage of it by putting together a curriculum that centers on animal rights. Children are naturally compassionate toward animals, and for older students, social justice issues (such as animal rights) are of major importance, so an animal rights–themed course has a good chance of sparking their interest. And teaching students to have compassion for animals can be done in many different ways, so you can propose a course topic that aligns with both your interests and those of your students. TeachKind also offers teachers free classroom materials that cover a wide range of issues with age-appropriate language and images, and they’re perfect to use in conjunction with any animal-friendly curriculum.

One great example comes from middle school math teacher Kasey Brown of Alameda, California. Kasey—who was one of the fabulous runners-up in TeachKind’s 2016 Teacher Appreciation Contest—created a full elective course on the topic of animal welfare and care, which she taught at her school. The class was offered three times a year to groups of more than 20 students, and the curriculum included hosting guest speakers such as veterinarians and members of animal rescue groups; creating bulletin boards on animal issues such as vegan eating, animal testing, and preventing cruelty to animals; working with local animal shelters; and having students create their own animal-themed lessons to present to younger students.

teacher appreciation contest

We’ve put together a few topics for elective or bonus courses that will teach students about animal rights, give them a new appreciation for animals, and help build a kinder future for all sentient beings.

And if your school doesn’t offer much flexibility with regard to elective classes, you can always start an animal rights club that meets at lunchtime or after school to help get students involved and create a space for discussing animal issues on campus! 😊

1. Caring for Animals and Helping Those in Need

Many students have companion animals at home, and all students face the possibility of unexpectedly coming across an animal in need. Teaching students the basics of companion animal care (including the importance of spaying and neutering to help curb the severe overpopulation crisis) can be life-changing both for students and for the animals in their homes, as many families may not recognize the needs of their animal companions.

crystal dog cap rescue, embedded collar

A course on animal care is also a great way to discuss the best course of action to take in an animal emergency. Almost everyone has come across an animal in need at one point or another—whether a lost dog running through the neighborhood or a bird who’d hit a window and couldn’t fly—but not everyone knows how to handle such situations. Explaining why students should always tell an adult if they come across an animal in need and suggesting other ways they can help can get them on a path toward becoming a hero for animals.

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2. Speciesism and Animal Ethics

For teachers who prefer a course focused more on social justice or philosophy, addressing speciesism (which refers to prejudice or discrimination based on species) is a great place to start. By acknowledging human prejudice toward animals, you can make students aware of their built-in beliefs and give them the power to change them.

If you want to focus more on philosophy, you can also discuss animal rights as an ethical issue and explore the reasons why it’s morally wrong to exploit animals for experiments, food, clothing, entertainment, or anything else.

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3. Amazing Animals

Who doesn’t love learning fun facts about animals? The more students realize how similar animals are to us, as well as learning to appreciate their many unique qualities and skills, the easier it is for them to feel compassion for other beings and, as a consequence, make choices that benefit them.

Happy. pigs, friends, cute, buddies, happy pigs

Get kids excited about identifying with and helping animals by first introducing them to some of the fascinating facts about them. Using TeachKind resources, you can emphasize the many similarities we share with animals while also highlighting their amazing abilities and encourage students to share the world with them. There are endless inspirational activities and lessons in this area to choose from.

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4. Animal-Friendly Choices

We all make choices every day—and empowering your students to make informed ones that benefit animals (as well as the environment and themselves) is key. This topic is especially helpful for high school students, who are beginning to form their own worldview and have more control over their own decisions. You can even get your students involved in grassroots activism by planning a local demonstration in your community.

Teen-Led Climate Strike

Whether you cover the topic of buying cruelty-free products, following a vegan lifestyle, avoiding businesses that use live animals for entertainment, adopting animals from shelters instead of buying from pet stores, or a combination of all these topics, TeachKind has a plethora of information and resources that can help you put together an inspiring, fun, and potentially life-altering curriculum for your students.

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Want to be the first to hear about inspiring new lessons, activities, and resources for your animal-friendly curriculum? Sign up for TeachKind’s free e-mails:

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind