Shelter Savvy from Animal Protection of New Mexico


The Animal Connection for Grades 3 through 8

Reaching Common Core Standards Through Humane Education

Week Two: Staying Safe With Animals

The Animal Connection 12-week comprehensive humane education program for grades three through eight enhances academic performance in critical content areas through motivating lessons about animal welfare, all in the context of a student driven research project. Students are introduced to their assignment on day one of the program. In established teams, students must gather information and insights into the care of a companion animal of their choosing. Through personal interviews, independent book and online research, enhanced by the classroom lessons, the students develop a five-paragraph research paper and a corresponding multi-media presentation. At the end of the twelve weeks the student teams present their findings to their peers, teachers, parents, school administrators and other guests.


Week 1: Introduction to Unit/Group Work and Listening Skills

Week Two: Staying Safe With Animals

Students will be introduced to this unit of study. Through participation games and activities students will learn the need for cooperation, reliability and good communication. After receiving a template/research guide for their group’s companion animal, the students will be taken through the process of how to complete the template and transform the information into a five-paragraph research paper. Further instruction is provided in how to use the information from the student research papers to create a live, multimedia presentation for their peers.

Week 2: Care and Responsibility, Humane Stewardship, and Responsibility Timeline

Students will participate in a discussion involving environmental, health, exercise, and nutrition needs necessary for humane stewardship. Demonstrations of proper grooming and teeth brushing will be provided with the assistance of a therapy dog. The length of the commitment to a companion animal will be demonstrated through a Life Timeline, indicating the changes that will take place in students’ lives throughout the lifespan of the companion animals they choose to research.

Week 3: Life and Death in the Shelter

Week Two: Staying Safe With Animals

Through a power-point presentation, students will experience the process a loose companion animal goes through from being picked up off the street, transported, scanned for micro-chip/tags/license, impoundment, life in the shelter, reunited with owner-or adopted-or euthanized. Costs to taxpayers will be discussed as well as the need for responsible ownership.

Week 4: The Work of the Animal Welfare Officer

Students will meet local animal welfare officers who will discuss their work as protectors of citizens as well as animals. Both fieldwork and shelter work will be explained and the officers will demonstrate the use of their equipment. Students will have the opportunity to tour an animal transport vehicle. The officers will stress the need for responsible ownership: pet identification, rabies vaccinations and licensing.


Week Two: Staying Safe With Animals

Week 5: The Need for Spaying and Neutering

Building on the “virtual tour” of the shelter intake process and shelter life (Session 3), students will take part in activities that will help them understand and truly comprehend the huge numbers (both nationally and locally) of animals being euthanized. Students will use ratios and percentages in pie graphs to graphically depict the numbers of unwanted animals. Brief explanations of the surgeries will be provided.

Week 6: Train. Don’t Chain: The Consequences of Chaining Dogs

Students will learn how long term chaining of dogs creates both animal cruelty and public safety issues. Alternatives to chaining will be presented with precautions regarding tethering. Students will participate in activities that will illustrate for them both the frustration and feelings of isolation brought on by such confinement.

Week 7: Loose Dog/Bite Safety

Week Two: Staying Safe With Animals

Students will be taught how to read animals’ behaviors. This will lead to discussions involving when to interact with an animal and when not to interact. Special emphasis will be given to precautions to take around unknown and loose dogs. Methods of protection from loose dogs, aggressive and biting dogs will be demonstrated. Through the use of registered therapy dogs, the students will practice newly acquired skills involving safely feeding, giving a treat, and playing with an animal, as well as appropriate behavior around loose and/or aggressive/or biting dogs.

Week 8: Animal Fighting: Blood Sports

Students will learn the history and current activities involving dog and cockfighting. Through a PowerPoint presentation, students will become familiarized with the equipment used to train dogs and roosters to fight. They will see photographs of “pits” used for such events, the typical housing constructed for these animals and some animals being rehabilitated and treated for their wounds received during the fights. Explanations of the county ordinances and state statutes involving animal fighting will be discussed as well as the other illegal activities that are typically involved with blood sport activities. (illegal drugs, practicing veterinary medicine without a license, child abuse, domestic violence etc.) Students will also learn how to safely report any cruelty or neglect situation involving an animal.

Week 9: The LINK and The CONNECTION

Week Two: Staying Safe With Animals

Students will study the connections between animal cruelty, bullying and assaultive behavior. Students will discuss why a person becomes a bully, why some people are typically victims, why most stand by while it is happening and how to safely participate in stopping the cycle. Students will meet and learn “Sophie’s Story.” Sophie is a 10 lb. Italian Greyhound Therapy Dog who was a victim of severe animal cruelty when used as leverage in a domestic violence dispute. Emphasis will be placed on how to recognize and stop the cycle of abuse. Information on assistance for both animal and human victims will be distributed. The value of kindness and humane treatment of animals will be discussed in the context of human relationships.

Week 10: Down on the Farm: Cows, Sheep, Goats, Llamas, Horses and Donkeys

Students will investigate the special needs and responsibilities associated with the care of large, livestock-type animals through a special video lesson filmed at a northern New Mexico farm animal sanctuary. Students will meet several animals and visually experience the extent of the daily chores necessary to humanely care for them. When available, the lesson will include a live question and answer session with the proprietor of the sanctuary.

Week 11: Student Research Presentations

Student groups will share their research on the animal of their choice. They will provide information on the expenses, environmental needs, health care, nutrition, laws and exercise necessary to humanely care for this animal. Students will be encouraged to educate and creatively entertain their audience with their findings.

Week Two: Staying Safe With Animals

Week 12: Program Wrap-Up / Evaluation

Students will gather with the presenters and teachers to discuss what they have learned from The Animal Connection. Any unanswered questions will be addressed and students will be encouraged to comment on what they have learned as well as share their concerns. In-person focus group interviews are conducted with randomly selected students to assess program satisfaction, the effectiveness of the lessons, research project, written paper and presentations. In addition, attitudinal/social changes that may have occurred because of the program will be assessed.