Last spring I wrote a post about a new program we started for middle school kids called "Critter Club". The program was a huge success -- the kids truly enjoyed coming on Saturday mornings to clean cages, scrub litter boxes and fold laundry. I think their parents were a little jealous they don't enjoy doing similar chores at home!
They also enjoyed the educational component to the program where they came to HAWS once a week for an educational program and had opportunities to spend time with HAWS adoptable animals. Many of the kids were invited back to become regular volunteers with their parents, despite the fact they were younger than 13, since they had shown a tremendous amount of responsibility, maturity and committment to HAWS.
Critter Club Fall 2011 started a few weeks ago. We have a total of 16 kids in this semester's program. Some participated in Critter Club last spring, and many are familiar to me since they've attended our camps in the past. We've picked up several new faces -- kids who hadn't been involved in any previous educational programs.
So far things are going extremely well. The club members have been trained in cat cuddling and small animal socialization, and will be trained as dog walkers next week. We plan to have them create a project to help HAWS during this semester's program, and they'll have a chance to visit a Llama farm and help care for the Llamas in November.
One of the best parts about the program is that I get to hold conversations with the kids and hear their thoughts. One of the kids told me last night about a dog owned by a relative. It upsets her that the dog is crated for most of the day and night, gets yelled at a lot and doesn't have access to water except for certain times of the day. These relatives have kids - I suggested she encourage this family to send their kids to HAWS Kids 'N Critters Day Camp because maybe we could help them develop empathy and learn how to be responsibile dog owners.
While it's a tough lesson for a kid to learn that not everyone is kind to their pets, I'm heartened that this club member is concerned, has empathy for the dog, and wants to make a difference. Hopefully HAWS programs will allow her to continue to feel this way.
Learn more about Critter Club and how your child can apply!