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Widening the Circle of Empathy through Humane Education: A Qualitative Study with Diverse and At-Risk Children

By Jennie Marie Warmouth

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Category Theses

This study examines the socio-emotional and cognitive impact of a three-month literacy centered humane education program on one second-grade classroom of socio-culturally and linguistically diverse children using a qualitative research design. Twenty-five children, ages 7-8 years, participated in a humane education program that focused on developing descriptive profiles for shelter animals (e.g., dogs, cats) awaiting adoption at their community’s local animal shelter located in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States of America. The children worked together with the teacher researcher to generate and publish a descriptive paragraph to advertise the adoption of one “difficult to place” dog or cat each week. The children’s work was published weekly on the animal shelter’s website. The data collection procedures were embedded in the classroom’s weekly literacy instruction and occurred within the general education classroom. This study revealed three primary findings. First, the children with pets considered their pets to be family members. Analysis of the children’s perspectives on pet topics within their family systems revealed the role of non-human animals as social agents within some children’s moral socialization. Second, the children who participated in the twelve-week humane education program exercised empathetic capacity building. This was evidenced through their individual and collective responses to the focal shelter animals over time. Lastly, an examination of the processes by which the children related to the shelter animal topic illuminated a socially distributed account of empathetic development.


Mason N McLary

Date 2017
Pages 339
Publisher University of Washington
Location of Publication Seattle, Washington
Degree Philosophy
Language English
  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal-assisted therapies
  3. Animal roles
  4. Animal shelters
  5. Cats
  6. Children
  7. Dogs
  8. Humane education
  9. Literacy
  10. Mammals
  11. Socio-emotional competence