Teachers of sixth-grade classes in Brookline, Massachusetts introduced activities to help students understand the concept of service learning and the role of an effective citizen. So that students could explore opportunities for service learning, teachers read a book about shelter animals and one about students working together to save an abused circus elephant. They organized a field trip to a nearby shelter run by the Animal Rescue League of Boston where students got a first-hand look at the hardships shelter animals face and learned more from shelter staff about animal mistreatment and proper care of pets.
Following their visit, students reviewed Rescue League materials and related publications and websites. They decided to help shelter animals feel more comfortable and educate those who have pets to ensure they don’t mistreat or neglect animals. Students took ownership of the planning process and worked energetically to meet their goals.
To increase the comfort of shelter animals, they collected donated linens—making written and oral announcements, writing letters to the school community, and designing posters. Students gathered more than 200 towels, blankets, sheets and pillows in their drive for the animal shelter, calling the ever-growing pile in their classroom “Donation Mountain.”
Students also raised more than $700 for the animal shelter through two bake sales—in which they learned how to publicize and manage an event and price items appropriately. In making their donation, they studied the shelter’s budget allocations and decided to dedicate their gift to the emergency medical fund. Throughout the project, shelter staff worked closely with the teachers and students – answering questions, commenting on videos and providing shelter tours.
To educate others in their school about the importance of proper pet care, students worked with the school’s technology teacher to develop several YouTube videos directed toward children from pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade. School classes watched the video and a slideshow that the sixth graders had created to inform people about animal mistreatment. The sixth graders even made bookmarks for each child so each would leave the presentation with a reminder about how to care for animals. Students posted their YouTube videos online and shared them with friends and family. They also wrote to the author of one of the books they had read, and she promised to share the story of their project with others.
The project developed strong communication skills as students worked to translate guidance on pet care to different audiences and through different media. It enhanced their technological understanding, and convinced students they could make a difference in their community. Administrators and teachers were inspired by how passionate and engaged students were in the project and by the great compassion they expressed for the shelter animals.