Thursday, 30 October 2008

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Education - Anneleise Smillie

Previous presentation: Raising the Status of Companion Animals (The Canine Charter) - Clarissa Baldwin

Anneleise, from the Animals Asia Foundation, has been responsible for launching and developing programmes that have seen over 6,000 children graduating as 'pet cadets', promising to love and protect animals for life. These are children who had never touched animals and were deathly afraid, so this programme is making an extraordinary difference to the lives of children in Hong Kong. She will be presenting some of the lessons learned, and giving top tips and ideas for people to take away. When they started out this was a small, inexperienced team with no budget - there are no excuses for not getting on and doing it, even if there are mistakes along the way!

11:45: What is humane education? Why get involved? Who should it be aimed at?

Exhibitions to the general public, presentations to lawmakers, teach the teacher workshops, awareness leaflets and hands on activities with children are just a few ways. Anneleise is focussing on children as the most rewarding and best way to approach educating the public.

Identifying the issues is important - the real problems in the area and the perceived problems can be divergent, but both are important in establishing a strategy.

11:50: As pet ownership increases, so do problems surrounding responsible treatment and ownership of animals. Tragedy strikes when people perceive a problem with barking or anti-social ownership. How can we provide a lasting solution to these problems?

AAF focussed limited resources on children, and tailored the message to them. The children were scared - influenced by parents and the growing fears of disease - and the message needs to be clearly established.

A few basic principles were thought of, such as "dogs need clean water and good food", "dogs need three walks a day", "dogs need a warm place to sleep". In the end it was realised that these messages were secondary, so it was all resolved down to:
  • Animals have feelings just like us
  • Animals need love!
Once the message is clear, how are you going to deliver it?

AAF decided the dogs needed to deliver the messages themselves, and that meant convincing the authorities that dogs should be allowed into schools. There were widespread concerns about English language standards dropping, so the message about companion animals was woven into an English language programme.

11:55: Resources, manpower, transportation and expenses must be considered. To begin with, AAF visited just one school so as to achieve within their means. Materials were simple - basic English worksheets that gave volunteers and children alike structure. Volunteers were encouraged to keep observations and feedback. That way it became clear that certain elements of vocabulary (for example, 'fur' or 'paws') were missing, and that needed to be worked on first. Later, more resources such as flash cards were developed, or Guess Who games that describe the tasks related to working dogs which keep children engaged and active.

12:00: Parents also begin to get involved in the process, and group games such as Memory can help everyone work together and get across the main objectives to parental observers. Rewards are important at graduation, too.

What did the children want? Pet cadet wristbands
What did the parents want? Laminated certificates
What did the teachers want? Small ceremonies to mark graduation

You must also know where to find your volunteers. As the majority of volunteers AAF had were ex-pat women who were not working, they targetted their volunteer information at gyms, embassy coffee mornings, relocation companies and anywhere else these women could regularly be found. If you know what you're looking for you can efficiently target your resources and find the people you need. You must communicate, ask for feedback, keep them updated, reward the contribution and provide support and training to help these generous people become advocates and understand how valued a part of the programme they are.

12:05: Approach schools formally - you need to show your professionalism and competence, and address the goals and aims at that particular school and how you can help teachers meet them. Even if schools are not able or willing to include your programme in the daily activities, there might be after school clubs, fairs or other occasions that you can contribute to.

Anneleise's Top Ten Tips:

1. Never Give Up! Don't take no for an answer; just one individual is enough to get started.
2. Start Small
3. Develop Your Case For Support
4. Put Safety First
5. Build Firm Foundations

...well, you didn't think I'd give away all ten, did you?! Actually, you'll find all the presentations online at the main ICAWC website shortly, and you'll be able to find out more there.

Anneleise ends with an extract from the Professor Paws Pet Cadet Song, which has been a great (and wonderfully silly) hit with the kids in the programme. There are barking and mieowing background noises - brilliant!

And, of course, don't forget Dogs Trust education and school visits if you're in the UK and Ireland - you can contact us for more information.


Next presentation: Animals as Therapy in Human Health - Alexandra More

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