Cruelty and neglect occur in both rural and urban areas, at the hands of all genders, all ages, all cultures, ethnicities and socio-economic classes. Cruelty and neglect take many forms and no animal species is immune to it.
SPCA's mission has always been to encourage the humane treatment of all animals and to prevent cruelty being inflicted upon them. However, every year SPCA continues to care for over 41,000 abandoned, injured or abused animals. SPCA Inspectors attend hundreds of animal emergencies and investigate thousands of animal welfare related complaints. The figures clearly highlight the need in our communities for education and experiences to break cycles of cruelty.
Given the correlation between human violence and animal cruelty, SPCA recognises that changing the hearts and minds of our communities will not only improve the world for animals but for humans as well. For prevention to occur on a national scale, the need to reach and change the hearts and minds of an entire generation of New Zealanders is essential. And so in an attempt to do so, SPCA’s new education programme was developed.
SPCA’s new education strategy is based on evidence from international research in the field of Animal Welfare Education. This research highlights that the most effective time to provide this type of programme is between 7 and 12 years of age, therefore our initial strategy is designed for primary and intermediate schools. With this evidence in mind, young people also have the potential to disseminate new habits effectively among the rest of the population.
The programme has been uniquely designed by New Zealand classroom teachers to integrate into the New Zealand Curriculum subjects schools teach; making animal welfare a real-life, meaningful context to apply and learn these subjects through, rather than a stand-alone, forgettable one-off session.
SPCA were privileged to have received ongoing advice and guidance from Mary Chamberlain – Evaluation Associates Consultant and to have contracted an independent reputable research company - New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) to evaluate each individual component of the strategy as it was implemented, to ensure all developments were evidence-based.
SPCA’s education programme consists of four interlinked components that encourage teachers, children, parents and the community to think, learn and act together to achieve positive, empathetic and compassionate outcomes for human and non-human members of society.
The first component is the SPCA Teachers’ Portal www.teachers.spcaeducation.org.nz this resource has been designed for classroom teachers and consists of animal welfare lesson plans, suggested learning experiences, printable and digital supporting materials and assessment templates covering an array of New Zealand Curriculum achievement objectives.
The second component is the SPCA Kids’ Portal www.kids.spcaeducation.org.nz this interactive and engaging learning tool is what children can use to research and find all the information they need when being taught by a classroom teacher using the SPCA Teachers’ Portal resources. Here children are able to find out all about the SPCA and what we do. They can learn about animal care, watch videos, read our Kind Matters Newsletter download instructions for making enrichment toys for the animals here at SPCA, test themselves with our fun quizzes. There is even an Ask an Expert function where children can submit their animal care and welfare questions. Our Kids’ Portal content is delivered in a range of formats, which we hope will engage all types of learners.
The third component is the SPCA storybook collection. Levelled in alignment with the Ministry of Education’s colour wheel schools can integrate this entire series seamlessly into their reader collections and their classroom literacy programmes. The objective of each of the eighteen original stories is to teach core animal care and wellbeing lessons through engaging, emotive and thought provoking stories. Whilst also increasing children’s reading mileage and supporting the development of their reading skills and strategies. This resource aims to bring school, home and the SPCA together. Thanks to the incredible financial assistance of our supporters we were able to publish, print and distribute a set of each title in English and te reo Maori to every NZ primary school (all 2,200 of them!). Teachers can also download Samoan, Tongan, Mandarin and te reo Maori editions from our Teachers’ Portal at https://teachers.spcaeducation.org.nz/
Some children are more at risk than others in engaging in intentional animal abuse. These young people may require more intensive, targeted interventions, in addition to the education they receive from the components above. Therefore, SPCA is developing a fourth component. This component includes the design and implementation of high quality humane intervention resources and services. These will be used to support professionals working with children and young people in need of experiences that build empathy, compassion and prosocial behaviours.
The traditional African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child” has been widely quoted when examining the partnerships required during the development of our children. When it comes to ending animal cruelty - our “village” has never been more necessary than it is today. It is our hope, that by working together with schools and families, we can raise a generation of children who have learned empathy and compassion, a generation who encourage the humane treatment of all animals, giving them the love and respect they deserve and preventing cruelty being inflicted upon them. And given the correlation between human violence and animal cruelty, we are confident that developing the hearts and minds of our future generations in this way, will not only improve the world for animals but for humans as well.