Teaching Compassion: Bringing Veganuary into the Classroom


Jane and Clea visited a UK college last month to speak with students about their Veganuary-themed project. This is what teacher, Dave Bakes had to say about the work he set his students…

One of the privileges of being a teacher is that you get to interact with young people who have yet to make up their minds on the world. They are open to new ideas and new ways of thinking and are keen to learn and to create. Another privilege is being able to bring your own ideas to the classroom and present your own thoughts and ideas about the world.

When I set out to make a student project about Veganuary, it wasn’t my intention to try to convert my students in to vegans. I picked the subject because it is one close to my heart but it is also something which I felt they would not know a lot about. This would allow them to explore and learn about a subject in detail.

I did worry what the students might think of the project. I really wanted them to engage with it but I could not be certain that they would. I didn’t know if the typical ‘bacon though’ argument would come up. I had to be prepared to accept all view points in the room. This was a new concept to a lot of the students and it needed to be carefully handled.

In the end, we used a lot of their initial questions to help guide their research in to the subject area. I stuck to quite safe resources in the classroom but also pointed out where some of the more harrowing articles and videos could be found, for those that wanted to dig deeper.

I was really pleased with how the project went and the amount of information the students gathered along the way. They used this to make some really interesting and engaging design work. There was a huge variety of focus and style across the group and everyone managed to put something of themselves into the project.

Hannah’s work
Ruby’s work

I am not sure that many students have changed the way they eat because of the project but I am sure that they are now armed with the facts of food production and can make conscious decisions about what they choose to eat.

I’ve seen a student bringing plant based milk to class instead of an energy drink, and that in itself is a small victory.

Having the Veganuary team come in to visit and see the work was a really great experience for the students. We don’t often get to have such feedback and encouragement in the work that we do. I think everyone took a great deal away from the experience. The students really enjoyed showing off their work and getting some extra input.

As teachers, we always want to expand the horizons of our students and try to help them fully understand the world around them. It is all too easy to reinforce the cultural norms regarding animals and their use in food production. Challenging students to confront their preconceptions can lead to some really interesting work.

The Brief:

You have been commissioned by the not for profit organisation Veganuary to produce copy and design work to help them promote their cause. The purpose of the work that you will do is to spread factual information in an engaging way. The outcome should be that people reconsider their approach to food consumption. The target audience is gender neutral, 16-35, ABC1.

You will research the concept of veganism, gather information, assess its validity and cross check information. Once you have built up your understanding, you will use this knowledge to produce factual copy for an information booklet for the organisation.

Once you have produced this copy, you will use your wide skill set to present it alongside appropriate visual elements which you will design.

Finally, you will evaluate the work that you have produced.

Ready to take the Veganuary pledge?

Veganuary is the world's largest vegan movement, inspiring people to try vegan for January and throughout the rest of the year.