Humane Education

AV Magazine Issue 1, 2011 2011 Issue #1 Humane Teachers Animalearn Drives Excellence in Humane Science Education
Laura Ducceschi MA, MBA, is the Director of Animalearn, the education division of AAVS.

Animalearn, a division of the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS), has been serving the education community since 1992. At the core of Animalearn's services is a comprehensive understanding of the needs of teachers, students, and administrators, fueled by our mission to end the harmful use of animals in teaching and training, while providing a valuable service to schools, colleges, and universities.

Why Alternatives?
Though hard to believe, cats remain one of the most commonly dissected animals in classrooms, despite being beloved family members with whom many of us share our homes. Other animals used include frogs and fetal pigs, as well as sharks, perch, turtles, crayfish, grasshoppers, earthworms, and starfish. In total, it is estimated that six million vertebrate animals are dissected yearly in U.S. high schools alone, with an additional, unknown number used in colleges and middle and elementary schools.1 Additionally, it is believed that the number of invertebrate animals dissected annually is comparable to that of vertebrates. The animals come from various sources such as: their natural habitat, animal breeders and dealers, pounds, shelters, ranches, fur farms, and slaughterhouses. Live and dead animals are bought from these sources by biological supply companies where educators purchase what are commonly called specimens.Because these animals are considered mere objects or products, lack of quality care, handling, and treatment often leads to trauma, injury, or premature death. For example, live animals are sometimes shipped in overcrowded packaging, which leads to injury, food deprivation, dehydration, and/or suffocation. These animals can also be exposed to extreme temperatures and rough handling.

The Science Bank
Many educators and students do not want to harm animals in order to learn or teach science. Animalearn provides services to simplify the replacement of the harmful use of animals in the classroom with humane alternatives. The main component of Animalearn's service for teachers and students is The Science Bank loan program for K-12, college, university, veterinary, and medical education. The Science Bank is the largest free loan program in the U.S., providing thousands of educators, students, and parents with humane science teaching tools free of charge. There are over 450 items available on loan, including digital dissection CD-ROMs, interactive training manikins, realistic models, and videos, many of which are available in classroom sets.2 The Science Bank catalog is available online at, and is easy to search. A comprehensive database allows users to select the type of product they want to borrow at the appropriate educational level in an effort to help them choose the best alternative to dissection or animal experimentation for their classrooms. In addition to the online catalog, Animalearn publishes an easy-to-use print catalog of The Science Bank, which is distributed to educators. In order to keep up with the latest in humane science teaching tools, Animalean is continually updating The Science Bank with the most innovative technology, which includes virtual reality and simulation, where students can learn anatomy and physiology by doing dissection with a computer mouse and not a scalpel.

The Changing Classroom
Since Animalearn's inception, there has been significant growth in the number of students who ethically object to dissection and animal experimentation and the number of educators who are switching from traditional labs to dissection alternatives because of their educational effectiveness. Additionally, many teachers are questioning the value of the use of animals for teaching and training, and are recognizing that students can learn equally as well, and often better, through the use of humane alternatives. Changing a classroom from one where students dissect with a scalpel to one where students dissect with a computer mouse requires nothing more than an available computer and a CD-ROM. What it offers, however, is an engaging, interactive, and stimulating educational experience for students. Across the U.S., and around the globe, alternative methods of teaching science, biology, and other subjects where live or dead animals have traditionally been used are being implemented in classrooms. Educators who offer dissection alternatives to their students are helping animals by decreasing the numbers of animals killed for dissection purposes.In order to honor educators who make an effort to help animals used in education and training, Animalearn established the annual Humane Educator of the Year Award. This Award goes to a teacher who demonstrates faithfulness to his or her ideals to promote a classroom environment that encourages humane education. Animalearn's 2010 honoree was biology teacher Julie Shaeffer. Ms. Shaeffer's efforts to incorporate non-animal dissection alternatives and cruelty-free science into her classroom, as well as her development of a specialized biology curriculum that integrates alternatives borrowed from Animalearn's The Science Bank, earned her this honor. (See "Overcoming the Dissection Paradigm")

Supporting the Teachers
Animalearn further supports teachers who wish to replace the harmful use of animals in the classroom with humane alternatives by providing training workshops free of charge. Animalearn travels to national and state education conferences where teachers can earn continuing education credits for attending workshops on integrating alternatives to harmful animal use into their lesson plans. These workshops explain how teachers can use The Science Bank, and they provide hands-on tutorials of how to use the technology. In addition, Animalearn provides in-services and training sessions at intermediate units, schools, colleges, and universities to create a comfort level with humane science among the educational community. Such sessions serve to familiarize and acclimate teachers with the use of the technology and how cruelty-free science education can benefit their students.In addition to formal training workshops, Animalearn serves as a consultant for educators and administrators on a personalized basis, helping them select the most relevant items for their curricular needs. Recognizing the time constraints and curriculum requirements of the educational community, Animalearn provides an added value with these one-on-one free services, which not only equip educators with the latest technology but also stimulate interest in alternatives.

Humane Education
In addition to alternatives to animal use in science education and training, Animalearn also promotes humane education, or the promotion of humane values. Animalearn is part of an international coalition of animal protection groups, joined for the purpose of establishing a set of humane education benchmarks. There is an interest in gaining an understanding within the U.S. education community regarding the importance of utilizing humane education in the classroom. Animalearn offers "Next of Kin," a comprehensive humane education curriculum that was developed by Rachel Fouts-Carrico with support from the New England Anti-Vivisection Society. It contains interdisciplinary activities on a CD-ROM, offering students options to participate in decision making and cooperative problem-solving tasks. The activities are designed to promote awareness, attitudes, and actions to help solve the problems that animals are faced with, whether living in captivity or in their natural environments. Designed for elementary and middle school, "Next of Kin" has been correlated to national education standards for math, reading, and science, so that educators can implement humane education into their curriculum while meeting specific requirements.

Supporting the National Science Initiative
Animalearn's services are particularly important and timely, especially considering the launch of the national science initiative in the U.S. Currently, there is a re-energized focus on improving K-12 math and science education in the U.S., which inspired the creation of the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), a public-private partnership. This initiative was formed to address the declining number of students prepared to take college courses in math and science and equipped for careers in those fields.3 According to proponents, the long-term impact of this problem is that the U.S. will not be able to generate the intellectual capital to fuel our economic growth. In a ranking of 31 industrialized countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), U.S. students recently finished 14th in science, further illustrating this challenge.4 Animalearn's services allow teachers to support NMSI by providing their students with a more innovative method to teach and study science. The Science Bank provides a no-cost way for K-12 educators to engage students and spark their interest in science. Studies show that students learn science equally as well when using humane science products, and in many cases, even better than those using traditional methods.5 And, they learn to respect the value of life in the process.

A Global Movement
Animalearn recognizes the importance of occupying a role in the global process of ending the harmful use of animals in teaching and training. In support of this effort, Animalearn has participated in the World Congress (WC) on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences in 2007 and 2009. At the 6th WC held in Tokyo, Animalearn presented a poster with Dr. Lynette Hart, entitled "Guidelines for the development of student choice policies regarding dissection in colleges and universities: An ethnographic analysis of faculty and student concerns."6 At the 7th WC, which was held in Rome, Animalearn presented a poster entitled "Dying to Learn: The Supply and Use of Companion Animals in U.S. Colleges and Universities."7 This year, Animalearn will be participating in the 8th WC in Montreal.In addition, last year Animalearn took part in the Korean Association of Lab Animal Scientists (KALAS) International Symposium, which was sponsored by the Royal Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), in Busan, South Korea. Animalearn presented a lecture on The Science Bank loan program. The customer-centered design of The Science Bank is being modeled by the Center for the 3Rs at Konkuk University in Korea. The project will develop a web-based platform for sharing information and exchanging ideas regarding alternatives in veterinary medical training, emphasizing refinement, reduction, and the replacement of animals in science education. This project was partially funded by AAVS's affiliate, the Alternatives Research & Development Foundation, and its education grant program. In addition to Asia, Animalearn has received requests to create a platform similar to the online Science Bank from other areas around the globe, including, most recently, the Middle East.Animalearn has also partnered with InterNICHE, the International Network for Humane Education, to help increase the use of humane alternatives to the harmful use of animals in biology and zoology across the globe. A recent example of this partnership is Animalearn's donation and distribution of over 500 free copies of Digital Frog dissection software to help bring an end to the catching, killing, and cutting of frogs for use in classroom teaching labs.Additionally, Animalearn has been working with Tanzania Animal Welfare Society's (TAWESO) Animal Replacement Project to help replace the harmful use of cats, pigs, frogs, and rats in schools, colleges, and universities in Tanzania. Animalearn has donated a variety of virtual science lab experiments and dissection software to help facilitate improved attitudes towards the humane treatment of animals in education, and to move toward incorporating the use of animal alternatives in the national education syllabus.

Looking Forward
Animalearn's reach has grown significantly each year, expanding beyond the border of the United States, and now occupying an international presence. Along with compassionate and progressive educators, students, and administrators, Animalearn is helping to make inroads in the global movement towards ending the harmful use of animals in teaching and training while promoting excellence in life science education.

[1] Animalearn. Retrieved January 28, 2011 from
[2] The Science Bank. Retrieved January 28, 2011 from
[3] The National Math and Science Initiative. Retrieved January 28, 2011 from (
[4] The National Math and Science Initiative. Retrieved January 28, 2011 from (
[5] Comparative Studies Guide. Retrieved January 28, 2011 from
[6] Ducceschi, L., Hart, L., & Green, N. (2008, March 31). "Guidelines for the development of student choice policies regarding dissection in colleges and universities: An ethnographic analysis of faculty and student concerns." ALTEX. Proceedings of the 6th World Congress on Alternatives & Animal Use in the Life Sciences. Tokyo, Japan. Retrieved from
[7] Ducceschi, L., Green, N., & Miller-Spiegel, C. (2010)."Dying to Learn: The Supply and Use of Companion Animals in U.S. Colleges and Universities." ALTEX: Vol. 27, No.4. Retrieved from

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