Over the years, TeachKind has created a collection of songs that are animal-friendly and promote empathy. We’ve taken common songs that you and your students might be familiar with and adapted them so that the lyrics promote compassion, we’ve updated classic nursery rhymes to discourage speciesism, and we’ve made our own fun music videos featuring various songs, some of which have been performed by award-winning artists. Check out these engaging musical teaching resources below, along with the corresponding lesson plans and activities!
TeachKind teamed up with Dr. Jean Feldman to create “Eat Green,” a song that gets kids excited about eating fruits and veggies. The song is to the tune of “Jenny Jenkins,” and there’s an accompanying lyrics sheet with easy hand motions that your students can do as they sing!
We worked with a former music teacher to create four songs about being kind to bugs as part of a virtual read-aloud of the compassionate children’s book Junebug: No Life Too Small. Our handy insect rescue poster gives step-by-step instructions on gently escorting insects to the outdoors.
“We Are Animals” is a PETA Kids song and music video from various animals’ perspectives. You could play this video for your class, or if you’re a music teacher, you could perform it by using a simple D6-A progression for most of the song.
The PETA Kids team put together five animal-friendly versions of outdated nursery rhymes. When singing one of these super-popular nursery rhymes to your class, exchange the outdated lyrics for the compassionate new ones.
TeachKind has compiled a factsheet of options for music teachers who want to replace their non-vegan instrument components with vegan ones. The next time you need new drums for your music classroom, you can select drums with synthetic heads. You can also replace the horsehair bows in your orchestra with bows made of synthetic hairs.
Finally, our collection of lessons to go along with the compassionate children’s book How to Heal a Broken Wing includes interdisciplinary activities in reading, music, and art. There are also discussions on empathy and a really catchy song about fascinating pigeons!
Other Animal-Friendly Songs to Share With Your Students
“The Elephant’s Song” depicts the life of Old Bet, the first elephant used in a circus in the U.S., from the perspective of her canine friend. Listen with students in grades 3 and up as the clay-on-glass and oil pastel animations sweep them through this wretched but age-appropriate and eye-opening tale. Encourage discussions about some modern-day circuses’ continued practice of using animals like Old Bet. This would also be a great opportunity to introduce your students to Ellie, PETA’s robotic elephant who shares her story of being rescued from the circus.
Consider using the song “Just Like Us” by Daniel Redwood in conjunction with our “Like You, Only Different” alphabet flashcards. Hold up each flashcard, go over the letter and sound, and read the sentence aloud, pointing to each word as you say it. Have your students repeat the letter and its corresponding sound. Then ask some empathy-building questions about the letter you’re on. For “Pp” (which shows a pig), you could ask something like “Why do you think mother pigs sing to their babies?” You could play “Just Like Us” as an intro or outro to this activity.
The book Animals Are My Friends will help your young students learn names of animals and foster empathy in them. Make cards featuring the various animals, and flip through them as you get to corresponding parts of the song so that your students can see and remember what each animal looks like. Use the digital singalong version to help you. As they sing along, invite students to take on the perspective of the child in the song, who doesn’t eat animals. You can ask them, “Why do you think she doesn’t eat animals?” and “Do you know anyone who doesn’t eat animals?” This is a great way to introduce students to the concept of vegan living and the reasons why many people choose not to eat animals. To continue this conversation, use our “What’s a Vegan?” activity sheet and lesson.
“Old MacDonald Had a Sanctuary Farm” uses a very familiar tune with a few alterations to the lyrics that give students a better idea of how cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals should live. Charity Kahn’s delightful performance is accompanied by videos of happy animals who roam and socialize. One of our favorite parts of this performance is when a turkey gobbles along to the lyrics “With a gobble-gobble here, and a gobble-gobble there.” The section starting at timestamp 2:35 would be a great place for your students to play along with some percussion instruments, like rhythm sticks or maracas.
Song by Charity Kahn/Charity and the JAMband
Video by Tony Sehgal/Silver Reaction Media
For more info, visit https://www.jamjamjam.com/old-macdonald-had-a-sanctuary-farm.
Many of these songs and lesson plans can be used in general music classrooms, but teachers of Pre-K through first grade can also use them to engage young learners. Please share these resources with your colleagues and encourage them to sign up for our TeachKind News below.