Heifer International Education Programs: Resources to Make a Difference

By Girten, Jen | Social Studies Review, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Heifer International Education Programs: Resources to Make a Difference


Girten, Jen, Social Studies Review


Heifer International is a nonprofit, humanitarian organization dedicated to ending hunger and poverty and caring for the earth. For more than 60 years, Heifer has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of families who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Since 1944, more than 10 million families in 128 countries have been assisted in moving toward self-reliance. Currently, Heifer is working in more than 50 countries, providing families with 30 kinds of livestock, trees and seeds.

Heifer partners with community groups and works together to create development plans. The members of the community groups receive training in animal well-being, agroecology, water quality, gender equity and community development. This training enables Heifer's project participants to care for their livestock and grow crops sustainably, further helping the community members to lift themselves out of poverty. Recipients agree to share one or more of their animals' offspring with others in need, as well as sharing the training in sustainable farming processes. Heifer calls this "passing on the gift," thus multiplying the benefits and impact of the original gift. Heifer's partners are also taught to manage resources for long-term success, for example, preventing overgrazing, planting trees and plants in reforestation projects and collecting manure for organic fertilizer.

Heifer Education

Heifer International also recognizes the importance of working with communities that may not experience hunger or poverty. Heifer education programs facilitate personal and community transformation by increasing knowledge, skills and awareness of the diverse factors contributing to global hunger and poverty. This new knowledge leads to informed choices and actions that help solve the problem.

Heifer International's education programs help participants:

* Develop a deeper understanding of the complex causes of, and sustainable

* solutions to, hunger and poverty.

* Evaluate the consequences of decisions and choose practical options that contribute to sustainable solutions.

* "Pass on the gifts" of knowledge, skills and resources.

For teachers, Heifer International offers a variety of options for introducing these themes to students, both in the classroom and at Learning Centers around the United States. California teachers can take advantage of a new Heifer Learning Center at Hidden Villa. Hidden Villa is an environmental education center in Los Altos Hills, approximately 39 miles south of San Francisco and 18 miles west of San Jose. Heifer's educational programs are scheduled to begin in Spring of 2010.

Heifer's School Programs provide resources for teachers to use with their students in teaching about issues related to global hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation. The elementary school programs focus on the relationships between the students and the world around them with emphasis on the interactions and interdependence between animals, people, and the environment. For older students, the focus is on trade between Latin America and North America. Lessons provide the opportunity for students to make connections to their own lives.

Overview of Heifer's Global Education Resource Kit

The Global Education Resource Kit is the newest tool that expands Heifer's already successful school programs. There are four levels for the Resource Kits, based on age and grade. Each level addresses themes related to Heifer's work and focuses on different geographic areas in which Heifer works. The lessons within each level are based on a grade-appropriate children's book, written by Page McBrier, award-winning author of best seller, "Beatrice's Goat."

* PreK & K: Animals Helping People, People Helping Animals

o Book focus: The Chicken and the Worm by Page McBrier

o Geographic region: Americas - North America - Dunbar Gardens Urban Gardening

* Grades 1 & 2: We are connected - People working together

o Book focus: Beatrice's Goat by Page McBrier

o Geographic Region: Africa - Uganda

* Grades 3 & 4: People and the Environment

o Book focus: Winter in Songming by Page McBrier

o Geographic Region: Asia/South Pacific - China

* Grades 5 & 6: You and Your Community

o Book focus: Once There Was and Was Not by Page McBrier

o Geographic Region: Central/Eastern Europe- Armenia

The topics for each Resource Kit are addressed in standards-based lessons developed with the Center for Teaching International Relations, at the University of Denver. …

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