Field Trip Ideas: Animal Shelter

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Field Trip Ideas: Animal Shelter

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volunteer in animal shelter during field trip

Field Trip Ideas: Animal Shelter

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Kim LaCoste
Massachusetts Teacher


           Do you need some field trip ideas?  How about visiting an animal shelter?  It is a great way to show children how to care for animals and what it takes to give an animal a healthy, happy life.  Many children want to have a pet, but don’t realize how much work goes into caring for one.  This trip will show them what it takes to care for a pet and how selfless volunteers use their time for a great cause.


           Visiting an animal shelter is on the top of this teacher’s field trip list.  I personally LOVE animals and have 2 dogs at home.  One of the dogs is a rescue and one was bought from a reputable breeder.  Although getting the exact breed you want is on the top of many families’ lists, giving a home to a pet that was surrendered, given up or abandoned is something that children should be introduced to at a young age.


           Sometimes field trip ideas are specific to the school’s curriculum.  Teachers need to show how the field trip is aligned with the state or national standards.  There are ways to show how a trip to an animal shelter aligns with curriculum standards, but I feel that this field trip aligns with social-emotional learning standards.  Field trip ideas don’t always have to be about learning the academic curriculum.  Social emotional learning is as important, if not more important than academics.


           Animal shelters may call this field trip a Humane Education Program.  Humane education teaches compassion for suffering or distressed animals.  Although most animals in an animal shelter are not suffering physically, they do not have a home that is their own so they may be distressed or sad.  Watching the volunteers show compassion for these animals is a great model for children to see.


           Animal shelters also talk about how important it is to spay or neuter your pet.  This may be a delicate issue to discuss but explained at a level that children can understand can be immensely helpful.  Shelter staff can explain that if pets continue to have more and more babies, there will not be enough homes for those animals.  If they cannot have more babies, then there will be enough homes for animals.  It is a simplistic explanation, but something children can understand.

Field trip ideas don’t always have to be about learning the academic curriculum. Social emotional learning is as important, if not more important than academics.

           Another subject that may be covered on this field trip is using positive reinforcement when training a pet.  This can be explained as how as people, we like to get rewards for doing a good job.  We don’t like to be punished or yelled at.  Ask the children if they are more likely to do something over and over if we are rewarded or punished.  The same holds true for animals.  This may even put the idea in their heads make good choices with their own behavior.


           What is better than having direct contact with cute, happy, well taken care of animals?  A farm or zoo…yes but being in direct contact with an animal that children could have at home has more of an impact.  Children need to know the appropriate handling and grooming of pets also.  As stated before, children need to see all the work that goes into properly caring for a pet.


           I know that I taught my son at a year young age that he always needs to ask a pet owner if he could pet their dog.  It is a way to teach respect and safety.  Shelters will also talk about body language of animals so that children can understand when it is okay or not okay to approach a pet.  Ultimately, teaching children to respect and understand animals is of the utmost importance, especially if they have or will have animals in their homes.


           When contacting the animal shelter about your field trip, be sure to tell them the age group you will be bringing and what you would like cover during your visit.  Visits will most likely be specifically tailored to the age group in order to convey the importance of animal welfare, shelter life and respect for all living creatures.


           Before going on your animal shelter field trip, it is important to discuss what the children will see at the shelter and how they should behave.  Reading stories about rescued animals and/or animal shelters will be helpful.  Giving your students background information will help them to get more out of their trip.  It will give them ideas of what to look for and what they will experience.  Explaining what will be happening is a good practice for any new situation that children will be experiencing.


          Making a KWL chart is another great idea before and after the field trip.  A KWL chart is a chart that has 3 columns in it.  The first column is K for Know (what do you know about the subject).  The second column is W for What (what do you want to know about the subject).  The third column is L for Learn (what did you learn about the subject).  Fill out the K and W before the trip.


           Follow up after the trip is so important.  Have a discussion or project after the field trip is key to seeing what was learned.  Since one of the goals of the field trip was to teach children respect, have them write a letter or card to the shelter thanking them for the visit.  The class can then fill out the L column of the KWL chart and if anything was incorrect in the K column, it can be corrected.  Another idea is to have the students write and draw about their favorite thing from the field trip.


           Teaching children about animals and respect/compassion is one the most important things you can do as a teacher.  Teachers should be just as devoted to teaching social-emotional skills as they are teaching academic skills.  Respect and compassion are lifelong ethics that make for a well-rounded individual.  Enjoy your trip to an animal shelter.


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