Kindergarten teachers in our community identified animals as the starting point for a community leadership role. Kindergartners learn leadership and contribution by managing the collection of items for animal care throughout the year. The goal, as with all service learning projects, is to develop an ongoing, long-term relationship with the community-based organization, in this case, an animal shelter.
After a visit with animal shelter staff, the leadership role for kindergartners begins with monthly communication with the animal shelter to obtain a list of needed items. Students inform the community and gather supplies. Sustaining the project throughout the year and from year to year educates all students and community members that kindergartners are managing these needed donations. Instead of an annual drive for items that can overwhelm community-based organizations and leave them without help at other times, an ongoing relationship continues from month to month, providing a steady stream of awareness as well as support.
With a service learning model in place nationwide, kindergartners would lay a foundation for shared work and communication with their peers from all parts of the country. They would build relationships with their peers, sharing what they are learning, refining best practices, and combining their community contribution statistics to create national outcomes.
They would also begin to experience from early on their value in the community, the support education brings to their ability to engage and contribute, and the support they can bring to one another as they meet the needs of our animal shelters, together, nationwide.
Ingredients and supplies to make dog biscuits and catnip toys
Service Learning Outline:
Animal shelter representatives speak with students about dog safety, kindness to animals, and the role of the shelter in the community. Students learn about the work of veterinarians in their community. They read fiction and nonfiction books about dogs and cats.
Students request a “wish list” of needed items from the animal shelter each month and work to gather the needed items, which typically include food, blankets, or worn-out towels, collars, leashes, and cleaning supplies. They update the community checklist with this information and manage donations for delivery to the shelter. They also make dog biscuits and catnip toys for animals in the shelter.
Group discussion along with drawing and story writing allow students to express what they have learned about animals, how to care for them, and how the community can support the work of the animal shelter. Graphing activities include picture graphs of pets students have at home, a Venn diagram to compare and contrast differences and similarities between cats and dogs, and a graph to track donated items.
Students contact and inform news media of the project. A flyer is created for parents and the community to learn about the outcomes of the project, inviting them to a school-wide assembly during which the project and its results are presented. The event could be scheduled during Be Kind to Animals Week in May.
- Language Arts
The response from our local SPCA was that this was a “terrific project.” Nearby community shelters wanted to be included, and one teacher told us, “Every year it gets easier, and we expand to include more things. Now we are focusing on why animals are important. We’re creating journals for the students to draw and write.”
Additional support suggested by our shelter that older students or community members could provide included:
- Adoption booklets based on what the students learn
- Flyers for animals in need of adoption
- Walking dogs at the shelter
- Training dogs at the shelter
Additional presentation topic possibilities
- Police dogs
- Dogs for the blind
- Rescue dogs