One thing that we feel very strongly about here at Emerald City Pet Rescue is reaching out to the public. Recently our Education and Outreach Specialist, Bethany, has developed a Humane Education curriculum for elementary students and we recently had the first opportunity to visit the students enrolled in Dearborn Park International School’s Summer Staircase Program for three sessions. The students were split into three groups ranging from Kindergarten to fourth grade. Bethany designed a program that would encourage the students to think about compassion and empathy in regards to both animals and to the other people in their lives.
The first day of our visit, we taught “Intro to Rescue.” We discussed The Three R’s (Rescuing, Rehoming, Rehabilitating), we discussed some of our adoptable animals and their special needs, and then led into what it takes to care for those animals and to have compassion for them.
On our second visit, we introduced the students to some activities in regards to empathy and engaged them in a conversation and Q and A about understanding a person’s basic needs, an animal’s basic needs, and to compare what a human needs vs what an animal needs (and allowing them to discover that many of our needs are all the same!). We then provided them with hypothetical situations / scenarios and asked for their feedback on how they should respond to those things with empathy in mind, a word we incorporated deeply into the lessons with the hope that the students would take with them an understanding of how to identify and have compassion for the feelings of others. Some of the hypothetical scenarios we gave them were, “If you see someone on the playground making fun of or picking on someone else, what can you do to make that person feel better?” The kids responded with answers like, “Tell a teacher” and “ask that kid to play with me so they won’t feel sad and left out!” Hooray – they were understanding empathy!
We then moved on to animals. “What if you see a mama cat out searching for food so she can care for her kittens, and someone is throwing rocks at her? How do you think that cat would feel, and what can you do to help her and make her feel better?” The kids responded with, tell the person to stop, give the mama cat some food, etc. They were understanding that an animal has feelings too. Success!
At ECPR, we firmly believe that helping young people understand empathy and compassion for both their fellow human and animals alike, they will grow up to be happy, healthy, helpful, kind adults. Animals need our empathy and compassion, especially when they cannot speak for themselves.
Our third visit was the most fun for the students, we brought some dogs for them to meet! We taught them about properly approaching a dog, about always asking permission before trying to pet a dog, and how to be gentle and respectful of the dogs and their space. We got them into smaller groups and allowed them to meet and pet our dogs.
Although the students were young, I watched them light up when they understood something, I saw them connecting the importance of caring for an animal’s needs by realizing their basic needs are the same as our own (food, water, shelter, LOVE, being safe, etc.) and I feel confident that the lessons we did will help these students grow into adults that are compassionate toward animals.
We are fortunate enough to have more schools lined up for this lesson plan, and we also plan on expanding and developing more lessons for all ages. We understand that as a rescue, we strive to help the animals in our care of course, but the best way we can help ALL animals is to be involved in our surrounding community and to help educate people about the awesome responsibility of caring for animal’s needs and what it takes to keep them healthy and happy. The more confident and knowledgeable a person can be about animals, the more equipped they will be to decide if owning a pet is right for them, what kind of pet might best fit their lifestyle, and what an animals needs are.
If you are involved in a school or program and you think Humane Education would be a great fit for your students, please don’t hesitate to contact our Education and Outreach specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re happy to work with you and design a curriculum that best fits your school and/or program!