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Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
15 November 2000 Issue

PUPPETEERING POPULAR WITH PRE-SCHOOLERS!
By MicheleARivera@aol.com

As the Director of Humane Education at our local humane society, I am always looking for fun and interesting ways to entertain children while teaching them about basic companion animal care. Humane Educators are being invited into the schools and day-care facilities all over the country. One day last week, I paid a visit to the Humane Education Director at the Humane Society of Broward County, Caroline Crane. Caroline was gracious enough to spend a couple of hours "teaching" me how to teach children to respect animals. And she comes by it honestly, Caroline is a former school teacher herself!

Bringing these programs to local schools and day-care centers does not take an act of congress! Usually, it can be done by word of mouth. Anyone who is working at a humane society as a volunteer would be a candidate for this type of work, providing s/he is a good public speaker and can work with children. A good beginning is a written outline of your program to be sent it to the local school board. Once a teacher has seen an actual presentation, others will be calling. It is important to remember that, although we are animal-rights minded, this effort is an animal-welfare effort, and by keeping that in mind, we stay in the mainstream and are easily invited to schools so that we can teach children respect for animals. Once they learn to respect dogs and cats and other companions, the animal-rights philosophy is much easier for them to grasp when the time comes. It is like planting a seed and watching it grow, blossom and become productive.

There are several grade-specific programs that Caroline relies on, but the one that I found most compelling was the "Pet Suitcase" program. It works for small children because it employs visual aids, interaction with the children, and is easy enough for even slow-learners to participate in.

The educator brings a colorful children's suitcase filled with dog and cat items that the animal would need if moving to a new home. The items in the suitcase are such things as a food bowl, water bowl, tennis ball, t-shirt with guardian's scent, brush, heart guard, license, catnip, mouse, pooper scooper and bag, lead and collar. It also contains cookies and other treats. The children are invited to, one by one, come up and remove an item, and show it to the class, similar to show and tell. Then, they tell why the companion animal would need such an item. Usually, the teacher would also have either a live therapy dog to whom the children can speak, or a dog or cat puppet who narrates the entire event. As each item is shown to the class, the humane educator expands on it's use -- the reason for Frontline, Heartguard, tennis balls, and so on. For older children, medical supplies that would help segue the conversation to spay/neuter post-op care would help as well.

Also included in this presentation is a visual aid of procreation. Take two items (animal-shaped pasta, if you can find them, or small plastic cats or dogs) and tell the class "These two cats got together and had five babies" show the five babies, along with the two adults, and now there are seven, and then each of the five, have five, and so on, until you have a huge pile of whatever the items are. This visual aid works very well because they can see how the multiplication works, and teachers love anything to do with mathematics, even if the kids don't.

I have heard that humane education is required in some California counties and I hope that is true, because until we teach our children to show respect and compassion for animals, they won't understand that animals have feelings, and the consequences of that omission are dire indeed. The children want to learn. We need to teach them.
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Writers note: I am very interested in hearing from other educators and teachers about ways to teach compassion and respect for children. Also, if anyone has any connection with toy stores or puppet outlets that may be willing to donate these items, or if anyone has some that they are not using, I would truly appreciate hearing from you. I will need several as I will be setting up about six kits, one for each fully trained volunteer. Please contact me directly at MicheleARivera@aol.com

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