Part of humane education is teaching children respect and empathy for all living things, including people. While we encourage kids to be respectful of each other, our curriculum has been focused on teaching children about animals.
This year HAWS started a new program at our camps called Kindness Tickets. The first day of camp each camper is given 10 tickets and they are asked to write their names on the tickets. They are encouraged to give the tickets to each other for any acts of kindness they might observe their fellow campers performing. Counselors are also encouraged to hand out tickets.
Several times throughout the week Kindness Tickets are counted and campers with the most tickets are rewarded. Their own tickets don't count towards the total, nor can they count more than two tickets collected from the same person. This prevents kids from swapping tickets in an effort to win. Once they've been awarded a prize the winner's tickets are disposed of and they start without any, although they can win a second time.
Initially our rewards were items from a prize box, but the enthusiasm for the program was lukewarm. Then the dog trainer in me thought about what would really motivate the kids. The answer is time with animals -- which is why the kids attend camp at an animal shelter to begin with. Kindness ticket winners get 15 minutes with the animal of their choice with the option to ask a friend to share their animal interaction.
Campers have told me that they really like the program. One girl told me that at the beginning of the week she made an effort to be nice because she wanted to earn enough tickets to win, but by the end of the week she was being nice because it seemed like the right thing to do. Maybe coming to Kids 'N Critters Day Camp will help kids learn to be kind not only to animals, but to each other.