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Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 52 Anthropomorphism

November 17, 2014

crab spider

I have many passions. I love to play, I love to write, I love to explore.

I find writing, especially writing from another’s perspective to be a wonderful way to perhaps not walk in another individual’s moccasins but to at the very least consider it. It is a fascinating way to explore. One of the reasons I teach outdoors is because I grew up reading the works of Rudyard Kipling and Ernest Thompson Seton who were both masters at telling tales from an animal’s point of view.

It’s easy to put human emotions and behaviours upon animals. Between television, movies and marketers selling breakfast cereals, it’s not surprising that we tend to think of certain critters in human terms.

If you were to ask your students today what animal comes to mind for each of these human emotions below I have no doubt you’d get answers along the lines of these examples:

Grumpy Excited Loyal Aloof Proud Wise Hard Worker Playful
Bears

Sharks

Squirrels

Rabbits

Dogs

Horses

Cats

Deer

Lions

Eagles

Owls

Turtles

Ants

Beavers

Monkey

Otters

What do your students think? What examples come to mind for them? Do students have different perspectives on the same animals? For instance, do they see a Clown Fish playful and innocent like Nemo? Or loyal like Marlin?

There are dangers in anthropomorphism (assigning human characteristics, form or attributes to wildlife, weather, or other non-human thinjgs) such as assuming certain wildlife are indeed friendly or the opposite, that they are dangerous.  Can a storm be “angry” or can a dog feel jealousy?  Many of the maligned species on this earth are maligned because of attitudes and perceptions that are inaccurate.

However there is certainly benefit as well in allowing us to teach our students to try to look at perspectives and ideas from another point of view.

This week I would like to challenge you to ask your students for ideas on what human characteristics they think of when thinking of different animals. Perhaps even ask them to create a short story that challenges those perspectives.

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