Aotearoa New Zealand is a nation of animal lovers. We have more than 4.35 million companion animals (pets) that call New Zealand home, and over 72 per cent of households with children have at least one companion animal*. However, sadly, every year thousands of abandoned, abused, neglected and injured animals arrive into SPCA’s care.
In order to prevent intentional and unintentional animal cruelty in New Zealand, SPCA has developed a free online education programme to improve animal welfare by nurturing the young hearts and minds of Aotearoa New Zealand.
What is animal welfare education?
Animal welfare education is about fostering respect, understanding, compassion and responsibility towards all animals. It’s an exploration of the relationships we have with animals and the responsibilities we have in ensuring their physical and mental needs are met to ensure their overall wellbeing.
The importance of animal welfare education
New Zealand still has a long way to go in preventing cruelty and improving the lives that our animals live. We continue to see chained dogs, fish living in glass bowls, solo rabbits confined to small hutches, abandoned animals and cases of deliberate neglect and abuse. However, on a positive note, we know that through education, behavioural change can occur and the most powerful and formative years for this learning is before the age of 12. This is why SPCA’s education programme has been developed to support children’s knowledge and understanding of animal welfare and nurture their personal sense of responsibility and empathy towards animals.
SPCA’s education programme
SPCA’s education programme is full of fun, curriculum-aligned, engaging educational resources for teachers, children, parents, whānau and the wider community to teach and learn about animals and animal welfare. Consisting of three interlinked components, SPCA’s education programme is comprised of an online Kids’ Portal and Teachers’ Portal, as well as four series of Instructional Readers. The programme aims to teach young Kiwis about animal welfare, responsible animal guardianship (ownership) and kind conservation through curriculum aligned collections of interactive, engaging, real-world learning experiences.
Having online resources, and sets of SPCA Instructional Readers in every New Zealand primary school, means regardless of postcode, all children, teachers, parents, whānau and community members can access and enjoy the same quality animal welfare education. For example, classes of students from anywhere in Aotearoa can join the same live educational webinars, enter any of the Kind Matters competitions, and even reach out directly to the SPCA Education Team for support and answers to their animal related questions.
Not only does being online mean greater accessibility, it allows for ongoing learning experiences that scaffold children’s learning, building on their existing interests and knowledge. This allows for real, deeper learning to occur and increases the likelihood of children putting that learning into action.
SPCA Instructional Readers
Instructional readers are the reading books that children learn to read with at school and then take home overnight to share and practise reading with their whānau. Over the past six years, SPCA has worked with Sunshine Books, a New Zealand educational publisher, to produce four series of their own animal welfare themed instructional readers. And, to ensure every Kiwi kid has access to these valuable resources, SPCA has gifted every primary school in New Zealand with six copies of each of the 24 titles.
Not only do these engaging stories support children’s reading skills and development, they also share important messages of animal welfare, animal guardianship and kind conservation. Having children read stories about characters they can identify with and relate to, can inspire and empower them to take action and make a positive difference to the lives of animals.
Free teaching notes and post-reading activities are also available on the SPCA Teachers’ Portal. The teaching notes suggest ways teachers can use the texts in the classroom, and post-reading activities help to extend and consolidate children’s knowledge of animal welfare and nurture their empathy and compassion for the living world.
SPCA Teachers’ Portal
Many children have a natural curiosity and affinity for animals, making them an excellent authentic context for learning. Ranging from early learning to intermediate, the Teachers’ Portal is bursting with free resources that use animal welfare and responsible animal guardianship as contexts for teaching and learning across all areas of Te Whāriki (New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum) and the New Zealand Curriculum for Schools.
SPCA’s teaching resources align to and provide clear links to the curriculum, allowing them to be easily integrated into the classroom or ECE centre. Not only do these resources teach core curriculum areas, but they are designed to encourage learners to inquire and develop the knowledge and skills they need to make informed choices and empower them to think and act for the wellbeing of humans, animals and our natural environment.
SPCA Kids’ Portal
This interactive and engaging learning tool is what children can use to find out all about SPCA, basic animal husbandry, animal welfare, and what it means to be a responsible animal guardian. Here children can watch educational videos, read Kind Matters newsletters and enter the latest competition. They can keep busy during school holidays with fun Learning at Home Booklets and by making enrichment toys for their own animals or those at their local SPCA centre. There are even games, crafts and an ‘Ask an Expert’ function where children can submit their animal care and welfare questions.
Where to next for SPCA Education?
Just as technology continues to evolve, so too does SPCA’s education programme. The programme is evaluated on a regular basis to ensure it remains fit for purpose, relevant and reflects the current needs of teachers, children and whānau. An example of this continued growth is the programme’s brand new teaching resource, SPCA Care and Create.SPCA Care and Create is an immersive 3D world created in Minecraft Education Edition. Minecraft Education is a game-based learning platform, described by some as similar to ‘online Lego’. Children can use Minecraft as a tool to design, engineer and model solutions, create products and solve problems.
Care and Create has been added to some of the existing SPCA resources and includes learning experiences such as designing a catio that would keep a cat safe and happy at home, inventing animal puzzle feeders, or enriching an aquarium to meet the welfare needs of fish. What makes Care and Create even more amazing is that it was designed and created by year 5 and 6 students at Elmwood Normal School in Christchurch!
By using our SPCA educational resources, the Kids’ Portal, Teachers’ Portal or instructional readers, you will be supporting the children in your life with their learning and understanding of animal welfare and help prevent cruelty towards animals, advance animal welfare and inspire a kinder generation.
To learn more about SPCA’s education programme visit spca.nz/education.