Service learning is a tool that a lot of humane educators use in their work with kids. Through service learning kids learn about an animal welfare related issue and then perform a service using what they've learned.
This semester our Critter Club members were challenged to do a service learning project and were given a choice of 4 different topics. Two of the topics were very popular with the kids when put to a vote, and so we allowed them to split into two groups with a different topic for each group.
One of the groups chose the topic of puppy mills. Although these are kids who are already sympathetic to animal welfare, I think they learned a lot and were appalled at the conditions in which dogs are kept in breeding facilities. They chose to do a movie to be placed on YouTube and spent a lot of time on-line doing research and looking for photographs to use.
While most of the kids in this group were already aware that puppy mills aren't very humane, I think they were shocked at just how bad they really are.
The other group chose the welfare of circus animals as their topic. They put together a PowerPoint and originally were going to present it to parents, but we ran out of time as the semester is almost finished and the club runs on semester basis. We decided to make it into a video and place that on YouTube as well.
As we started the service learning project I introduced the students to the "Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare". Originally developed in the United Kingdom as a guideline to how farm animals should be housed, it's been adopted by many facilities that house animals all over the world. Animal shelters in particular have adopted this concept.
The circus animal group used the Five Freedoms as part of their presentation to show that circus animals do not enjoy the standards required to ensure that their physical and emotional wellbeing.
Not only did the club members learn about an aspect of animal welfare not directly related to animal shelters, but they also had to work as a team and in some cases compromise in order to work on the project.