This is an activity to introduce thinking about essential and accidental properties of human beings, and what may or may not be important differences among people and between people and other animals.
- Get a large sheet of paper to hang on the wall (the giant Post-It stickies work well), or use a white board. (I prefer the giant stickies so they can be posted around the classroom afterwards and stay there to stimulate further musing.)
- Have the group generate ideas. Let children call out, or if you have a shyer group, go around the circle so everyone gets a turn.
- You may get things like “two eyes,” “can speak,” “can think,” etc., or you may get wildly different responses. Be prepared for anything and do not judge! Write everything down that the children suggest.
- After everyone has had a chance to speak, go back to your word cloud and ask of each one: Is this true about all people? And/or are there other animals of which this is true?
In the beginning, it may seem easy to come up with a list of traits that describe a human being, but in the end, it may be more difficult than expected to categorize what is true of all humans and only humans! After this activity, the group may like to continue with a discussion on perspectives and/or animal ethics using one of the poems above.