Can Virtual Reality Teach City Kids Compassion for Farm Animals?

Virtual Reality

This spring, middle and high school students in the San Francisco Bay Area will find themselves standing in the middle of rolling green pastures, interacting with rescued cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and other farm animals without ever leaving their classroom. This immersive “virtual field trip” is part of an exciting new in-classroom humane education program called “Meet the Animals: A Virtual Tour of Farm Sanctuary” from Farm Sanctuary, a national nonprofit that works to change the way society views and treats farm animals. The West Coast launch, which marks the organization’s first San Francisco-based program, uses virtual reality to teach students compassion for farm animals, and launched to overwhelming teacher demand last spring in the New York City and Philadelphia metro areas.

“Most city kids rarely if ever have the opportunity to interact with farm animals, so there’s a real lack of understanding about who these animals are and how they get to our plate,” said Farm Sanctuary’s new San Francisco Humane Educator Maddie Krasno, who draws on her experience as a tour guide at the nonprofit’s New York Shelter to bring the sanctuary experience into classrooms. “When kids see how playful and full of emotion these animals are, they want to help protect them from the miserable conditions they endure in our modern food system.”

The “virtual field trip” is interwoven with age-appropriate photos, video, storytelling, and eye-opening interactive learning exercises, including one that gets students out of their seats and actively imagining what life is like for chickens inside a battery cage, which typically hold up to 11 birds with floor space equivalent to less than a sheet of letter-size paper.

“It is critically important to address the negative impacts of industrial animal agriculture if we hope to curb some of the biggest threats our world faces,” said Farm Sanctuary President and Co-Founder Gene Baur, who TIME magazine calls “the conscience of the food movement.” “Failing to discuss these issues in the classroom would be doing future generations a terrible disservice.”

Benefits of Humane Education:*

  • Studies have shown that humane education has benefits for academic performance as well as student health and development.
  • Humane education can enable at-risk students to find workable solutions to health and social problems.
  • Teachers who infuse concepts of humane education into their classroom practices and culture have reported fewer conduct problems and aggressive behavior.
  • Student and teacher high interest in animal-based curriculum promotes deep engagement and learning.
  • Authentic learning built around animal welfare education and animal welfare topics that impact the real world encourages brain growth and increased competencies in areas such as kinesthetic, spatial, artistic, and interpersonal in a way that traditional didactic and educator centered learning does not.

To learn more about Farm Sanctuary’s Humane Education Program, visit farmsanctuary.org/humane-education.

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