Sara Garner is a teacher at The Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School, an Outward Bound-partnered public high school located in East Flatbush Brooklyn, NY. Below, she describes an innovative class project she designed, combining a screening of The Witness with hands-on animal care. The experience inspired her students to create poignant artistic statements reflecting their new awareness of the need to relate to other animals with kindness and true respect.
We love our pets; they are a part of our families. We believe they know us, love us, and respond to us. What the students from The Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School learned during a week-long experience was that we also wear them, eat them, and exploit them.
These students were made acutely aware of animal cruelty through various media presentations as well as volunteering their time at the local animal shelter. They began the week by watching The Witness, an award-winning documentary, where they were exposed to one man's journey of conscience and consciousness concerning animals; how he was inspired to rescue abandoned animals and expose the barbaric fur industry to the public. Suffice it to say, they were shocked and disgusted by the inhumanity they observed.
Following this, they viewed a short segment from a video exposing the truth about how meat is produced in the U.S. and how it leads to endless suffering in cows, chickens, pigs -- the list goes on, and so does the suffering. Subsequently, Charles Henderson, Director of Operations at the Sean Casey Animal Rescue, came into the school with his rescued 210 lb. Mastiff, Odin, now a therapy dog. He discussed the animal rescue process and healing power of animals, and also talked about his own journey, including how he found himself managing an animal rescue shelter. These students then spent two days at the Sean Casey Animal Rescue shelter walking dogs, cleaning cages, and giving their love to these voiceless animals who had been saved.
There are many of us who educate ourselves on issues of injustice. However, what we can learn from these students is that we can also take action; and when we take action we begin to make changes in the world and in ourselves.
The week concluded with a school-wide presentation of their literary expression. Their poems are reflections of what they saw, how it made them feel, and what they can or want to do about this epidemic of cruelty.
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