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Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA): Build-A-Bear Youth Humane Education Grant Report

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

The Foundation’s generous $7,500 Youth Humane Education Grant made a significant difference in our Humane Education programming for youth ages 6-14. Your generosity augmented our ability to improve the materials we use for humane education lessons and bring students to the shelter to learn about animal welfare firsthand. Following are some examples of how the grant funds were utilized to enhance the quality of our youth Humane Education programming.

• Mini-Grants: The PSPCA awarded mini-grants to three schools in our priority outreach and humane education neighborhoods: Hackett Horatio B School, Ben Franklin Elementary and Inquiry Charter. Our long-term educational partnerships with these schools help engage youth in thinking critically about the humane treatment of animals. Providing an opportunity for these students to visit the shelter is an important part of raising the next generation of animal advocates, particularly in the impoverished neighborhoods in Philadelphia.
• Humane Education Activity Book: The grant allowed us to create an educational yet fun activity book that reinforces vital humane-education lessons taught in the classroom. The engaging, age-appropriate activity book will also help students improve skills required to succeed in school and beyond, as a child’s early reading and critical-thinking experiences are essential to long-term academic success.
• Books: We purchased a dozen books to support our humane education lessons and our Cat Tales Summer Reading Program. Oftentimes, it's challenging to find age-appropriate books with the right message, and the grant gave us the opportunity to purchase the right books for our students. Additionally, this opportunity helped us become a member of the local Book Bank, so we can build our library of books for our Cat Tales Summer Reading program.
• Promotional Supplies: We have found that kids love a fun giveaway, no matter how good the lesson. Grant funds were used to purchase items such as rulers, pencils, stickers, and button-making supplies to provide useful materials students need in an underfunded school district like Philadelphia, while helping brand and raise awareness for our program. Moreover, countless times we have seen children needing basic school supplies, like a pencil, become an issue and we are happy to provide fun, educational items that offset the stress of not having supplies.
• Enrichment Supplies: Our Humane Education program gives students the opportunity to make meaningful projects for the animals in our care, which benefits the students and animals. By purchasing items like fleece, ping-pong balls, and catnip spray, students were provided a hands-on learning experience and the opportunity to make the life of shelter animals a little better. Enrichment activities are important because they help decrease the boredom and stress often experienced by shelter animals. By learning how to make simple enrichment projects at the shelter, students are also able to make them for their pets at home, or for friends and other family members with pets.

Because of you, students will be able to spend countless hours learning, exploring, researching, and advocating for animals in their homes and communities. Furthermore, we were able to spend more time working with students in our long-term partnerships which is critical to changing attitudes and beliefs about animals.

The Petfinder Youth Humane Education Grant is helping the PSPCA become a stronger catalyst to positive, impactful change in Philadelphia and educating the future generation of animal advocates. Because of you, were we able to build upon our existing humane education programs, increase our educational offerings and enhance the quality of our programming.

We can’t stress enough the importance of humane education, especially in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Philadelphia, where the lessons we impart extend beyond the classroom into the home. The Foundation’s support of our innovative, holistic approach to humane education helps children, pets, and their families. We are grateful for the Petfinder Foundation’s generosity, as we have touched the lives of more than 580 students in a meaningful, long-lasting way.

Below are comments from students from the Inquiry Charter third-grade class who were able to visit the shelter through a mini-grant submitted by their teacher:

“It is sad that there are so many animals that don't have homes. 400 is a whole lot!”

“The people that work at the SPCA are so kind and really good people to take care of all those animals. It is so good those animals have a place to go and people to care for them.”

“I can't believe there are that many animals without homes. People should really get their pets neutered and spayed.”

“The SPCA is a place where people who don't have a lot of money can still make sure their pets are healthy and taken care of. That's a good thing.”

“There were a lot of kittens with one eye. I felt so bad, but at least they could be saved and be alive.”

Below are comments from students from the Horatio B Hackett School fifth-grade class who were able to visit the shelter through a mini-grant submitted by their teacher, Alyssa McGeehan:

"I really learned a lot and enjoyed going to the PSPCA. I liked making toys and treats and interacting with the animals. I really think you guys take good care of those animals."--Jacob Andracki

"I learned that not all animals are being treated kindly."--Damien Mellor

"I enjoyed making cat toys and giving them to the cats."--Alyssa McGeehan

How many pets did this grant help?

Through the Petfinder Youth Humane Education grant, the PSPCA was able to serve 583 students ranging in age from 6 to 14. Specifically, the PSPCA visited 10 schools, hosted eight shelter visits, made 23 class presentations, and worked closely with seven service-learning partner classes. Our Humane Education program endeavors to balance the number of students we reach with the quality of our lessons and impact. Our goal is to create the greatest impact, and this can mean a few visits with one class or a long-term school partnership with the same class.

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

Story #1: Mini-Grants: The PSPCA Humane Education program has established several long-term educational partnerships with schools in our priority outreach and humane education neighborhoods. Partner schools are all located in Philadelphia communities that currently have high poverty rates, minimal or no pet resources, underfunded schools, minimal programs for students, and teacher/ community group partnerships.

The Petfinder Foundation grant provided an opportunity for students to visit the shelter from schools that otherwise could not afford to cover the cost of the bus ride. Mini-grants were awarded by the PSPCA to third- and fifth-grade students from Horatio B Hackett School, Ben Franklin Elementary and Inquiry Charter, all of which are long-term educational partners.

During Inquiry Charter’s third-grade shelter tour, Mandy asked the students, “Why do you think we [the PSPCA] spay and neuter animals?” Raymond answered eagerly, “Like you said upstairs, you have to take care of 400 animals every day — that’s already 400 animals without a home. I think that’s why.” These words speak to the heart of our humane education program and the lessons we work so diligently to impart to the city’s youth.

Brandi Fleischman, a fifth-grade teacher at the Ben Franklin School, noted, “The partnership program has had a positive impact on my student’s views on animals. For example, a student who is usually not one to participate on a regular basis has begun to enjoy sharing questions, answers, and even scenarios with his new classmates. It helps build a collaborative learning space for meeting the needs of ALL my students.”

“You know you’re making a difference when students like Joshua from Ben Franklin Elementary say, ‘I hope they all get adopted,’ as he stands in front of the cat-adoption area,” said Mandy Hood, humane education and outreach manger. “We are grateful for the Foundation’s support!”

Story #2: Animal Sheltering Lessons at Ben Franklin Elementary: Thanks to the generosity of the Petfinder Foundation, more than 30 students in the Ben Franklin fifth-grade class were able to participate in many hands-on lessons. One lesson in particular had the students talking for weeks. Ben Franklin students participated in an interactive lesson: Animal Sheltering. The lesson utilized props, simulations, and different hands-on stations to teach students about adoptions, the importance of veterinary medicine, and how to care for animals.

Through these activities, students learned how to promote dogs and cats for adoption and worked together to create adoption posters for four long-time residents at our shelter. Additionally, students participated in performing an annual exam on a stuffed dog named Lucy. Students learned the importance of vaccines, flea and tick medication, annual check-ups and more. Lastly, students participated in an animal-care activity where they learned about taking care of animals in a shelter setting. They reviewed their tools, discussed how to meet the basic needs of the animals, and set up a complete cat kennel.

Story #3: Enrichment Toys: Part of our Humane Education program is making enrichment toys for the shelter animals. “Not only does it teach students that they can make a difference in the lives of shelter animals and their own pets, it teaches them that they have a role in the quality of life of their animals and the fun things they can do together,” says Mandy Hood, humane education and outreach manager.

Enrichment toys also benefit shelter animals by breaking up the boredom, reducing stress, and teaching our cats and dogs that when kids approach, good things happen. Students from Horatio B Hackett School used fleece to make enrichment toys and give them to dogs as part of their shelter visit.

Jacob Andracki, a fifth-grade student at Horatio B Hackett School, says, “I really learned a lot and enjoyed going to the PSPCA. I liked making toys and treats and interacting with the animals. I really think you guys [the PSPCA] take good care of those animals.”

Story #4: Books: On Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, the PSPCA hosted their Second Annual “Howl-o-ween” Humane Education event where more than 70 families came to learn about animals in a fun and meaningful way. This year, story time was added to the list of event activities for children.

“The Petfinder Foundation Youth Humane Education Grant allowed us to purchase new educational books, and include a story-time feature to the event,” says Mandy Hood. “The children enjoyed the animal themed story time and learned about how animals perceive the world and the safest way to greet a dog.”

Two retired principals who volunteer with the PSPCA ran 10 different story times with kids from the local community. “The book topics were so exciting. They covered simple lessons about animals while focusing on word repetition in order to promote literacy. These are great,” says Honey Zozofsky.

Further Reading