Presenting to high school and college classes about the realities of animal farming is the most thorough educational experience activists can offer. Talking for 45 minutes to a room full of teens and young adults takes courage, but it reaches people on a deeper level than most other forms of outreach. It also strengthens community relations to cultivate future activists, and - by tying into current events and the course topic - demonstrates that this is not just an animal issue, it's everyone's issue!
How to get started:
Before you reach out to schools and prepare a presentation, you need to be sure that you are the right candidate. In order to be prepared to give a school talk, we highly recommend experience in activism that involves answering pointed questions about animal farming and vegan eating, such as pay-per-view events or tabling. We also highly recommend having experience in public speaking for more than 20 minutes consecutively in front of a captive audience. If you fit that description, then you are probably a good fit! If not, consider starting with one of CAN's other outreach opportunities, or take a public speaking course, such as Toastmasters.
You'll need to find out which high schools and colleges might be willing to host a presentation about animal agriculture. Often it's best to go straight to teachers who are teaching courses friendly to the cause: Current Events, Debate, Ecology/Environmental Studies, Health/Nutrition, Ethics, Journalism/Media, etc.
Another great way to find friendly teachers is to meet vegetarian and vegan students. If you are tabling, leafleting, or otherwise interacting with the public and hear from a young person, "I'm already vegetarian/vegan," we highly recommend asking them if/where they go to school and if they would be interested in bringing you in as a guest speaker. Schools are usually more open to bringing in guest lecturers recommended by students than they are to cold-callers.
Once CAN has approved you to give a humane education lecture on FARM’s behalf, you can begin contacting teachers. We ask that you use this email , and recommend that after sending you call or email again to follow up.
My name is _________, and I volunteer for the national nonprofit FARM, coordinating free classroom presentations about animal agriculture. I am writing to see your [school or class] would be interesting in hosting us for a guest lecture on this topic. We can discuss the impact of animal farming on animals, the environment, and human health, as well as brainstorm solutions to these problems. We would love to present in your [biology/health/philosophy/political science course], and would also be open to presenting to a full auditorium if the opportunity is available.
Our lessons are designed to foster critical thinking, allowing students to consider how much progress we should ask of governments and institutions vs. how much personal responsibility we should be taking. Building on popular documentaries such as Food, Inc. and Forks Over Knives, we will ask hard questions and encourage students to value compassion and sustainability in their own lives. Our presentations come complete with lecture, slideshow, and supplementary materials. If you would like to learn more about our program, hear from teachers who have hosted our presentations, or schedule a presentation, you can contact me at XXX-XXX-XXXX or at (yourname)@email.com.
Thanks, I look forward to hearing back from you!
Once you open the room up to Q&A, you are going to receive many positive and constructive inquiries, as well as maybe a couple of antagonistic questions. Remember: even if the person asking the hostile question cannot be swayed, others in the room are listening. Therefore, it’s best to know answers to basic questions about the prevalence of factory farming vs. small- scale farming, the nutritional benefits and concerns of a vegan diet, and more.
We recommend reading our "Have We Been Lied To?" brochure and memorizing some of the simple facts.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s okay. Just be honest and tell the person to email you and you'll get them a cited answer.
Make sure to arrive 10 minutes early to allow yourself time to introduce yourself to the teacher and get yourself set up before class begins. Let the teacher know that you are a volunteer but that you can put them in touch with the national organization if they are interested. You may want to consider printing a very short blurb about yourself, FARM, and the presentation for the teacher to read off when you are introduced.
Give the presentation as you have rehearsed it, and make sure to leave 10 minutes at the end for questions. If questions come up during your talk, we recommend answering only those that are very relevant (for example, if you’re discussing chicken farming and someone says that chickens don’t feel pain like cows do) but saving others for later (if someone asks how everyone can go vegan in the first 5 minutes of the lecture, just tell them that you’ll get to that later).
Once you open the room to questions, begin passing out the pledge sheets and "Have We Been Lied To?" brochures. Refer to the script you had already worked out for language that encourages the vegan pledge without coming across as preachy.
After giving your first presentation, we’d like to chat with you on the phone to see how it went. Once you have given a number of presentations, we will probably hold phone check-ins only when there are major changes being proposed.
Make sure to email the teacher to thank them for hosting you and remind them that you’re available in future semesters/other classes. If possible, request that the teacher have the students write you a brief letter, each telling you what they learned and what they plan on doing about it. (Note: this only works if ALL students participate, not just the ones who loved the lecture!).
Type up the pledge information collected from students into a CSV file (see this guide) and upload it along with your event report. We'll review the information and award you CAN credits!