Wildlife & inclusive pedagogy. How do these words correlate? For some, the relationship may be unclear. But for someone like me who studies animals, the animal kingdom can teach us (humans) a thing or two about inclusive pedagogy. But first, what is inclusive pedagogy? According to Georgetown University “Inclusive pedagogy is a method of teaching in which instructors and classmates work together to create a supportive environment that gives each student equal access to learning. In these courses, the content takes into account the range of perspectives in the class, and is delivered in a way that strives to overcome barriers to access that students might have. Inclusive classrooms work to ensure that both teacher and student participation promote thoughtfulness and mutual respect” (https://commons.georgetown.edu/teaching/design/inclusive-pedagogy/). In other words, inclusive pedagogy is simply making sure that students with different backgrounds, learning styles, perspectives, and experiences all receive an education that works for them (i.e., there is no “one size fits all” in education).
While animals most likely do not consciously think about inclusive pedagogy or teaching in general, some animals raise and teach not only their own young but the young of others as well. These animals are inclusive. It does not matter to them that some of their pupils/babies/friends/choose whatever word you want, look different, sound different, smell different, act differently, etc. All that matters is that these animals are put in the care-for and teaching role – and they embrace it. Stories about an animal of one species befriending, taking care of, and “teaching” an animal of a different species are relatively commonplace. Of course there are stories that are twisted and misconstrued to pull at heart-strings (e.g., the lioness and the antelope), so it is important to take this all with a grain of salt, but countless examples of true mutual relationships between species exist. For example, there is the dog who is best friends with a duckling and helps teach the duckling to swim and the cat that adopts a baby squirrel that fell out of a tree and teaches the baby squirrel to purr (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Gr5P-36w1Q). I know – my point here may be a bit of a stretch, but I kept thinking about this all weekend and so had to get some of these thoughts out!
Now, I realize many will argue that these examples of animals taking care of other animals is not teaching and is driven solely by some maternal or paternal instinct. And part of me agrees with that. But, another part of me has observed animals enough to know that they have empathy and compassion towards others and that they communicate in ways that are often too subtle for us to notice. I have watched my dogs teach my puppy how to do certain things (same species example, I know). However, it really doesn’t matter why animals will raise and teach other animals. It only matters that they do (and that it is really cute!)