For many, the new year is a time of self-reflection, hope, and renewal. As you consider making resolutions for yourself in the year to come, remember that January is also an excellent time to encourage your students to think about the ways they can grow and make the world a better place for all living beings in the year ahead.
After the long holiday break, take some time to review the kind standards that you set for your class at the beginning of the school year. Remind students of your expectation that they’ll treat all individuals—human and nonhuman alike—with compassion and respect. Use the following activities to renew their commitment to sharing the world with animals and to set concrete goals for the year ahead.
Sign the Kindness Pledge
TeachKind’s kindness pledges, designed for elementary school students, are perfect for getting kids thinking about ways to be kind, stop bullying, and help others—including animals. Kicking the new year off by asking them to focus on and commit to exhibiting qualities such as empathy and respect can help reset the standard of compassion that you established at the beginning of the school year. After filling out the pledges, students can reflect on them all year long—whether to celebrate successes or to use as a reminder that will guide their actions. Already completed kindness pledges? Revisit them and ask students to reflect on and refine their goals. They’ll love seeing what they wrote at the beginning of the year and will be inspired to keep going. Order a class set of kindness pledges, or print them from your computer.
Set Classroom Goals
Now that your students have thought about their personal intentions to help animals in the new year, it’s time to put your heads together to set goals for the whole class. Setting both short- and long-term goals to make the world a safer, happier place for animals will foster a sense of unity in your classroom and hold students accountable for their actions. The goals can build on expectations that have already been set, like “Continue not to harm insects who enter our classroom,” or they can introduce new ones. For example, if vegan eating hasn’t been a priority, you can make it one by inviting students to switch from drinking dairy milk to having water or juice at lunch. Write your classroom goals on a large piece of paper and display it in a prominent location so that you can refer to it often and keep students focused.
Here are some suggestions for classroom goals:
- Collect supplies to donate to an animal shelter.
- Go a whole week without getting a marble put in the “It” Jar.
- Enjoy only fresh fruits and vegetables at snack time.
- Invite another class to read a humane book with us.
- Encourage another class to make and use an insect rescue kit.
Track Your Progress
To encourage students to stay motivated and meet their goals, come up with a system of tracking their progress. For example, you can collect donations for an animal shelter in a large box and draw lines on the outside to indicate when it’s a quarter or half full, or you can record a tally mark on the board for every day that your whole class chooses nondairy beverages at lunch. When your class meets a milestone, celebrate with extra free time, a video about a rescued animal, a vegan treat, or something else that would be special for the students. Then watch as they quickly meet their next milestone!
Encourage other teachers to make compassion for animals a priority in their classrooms by sharing these ideas on Facebook.
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