The Official Houston SPCA Humane Education Blog

Teaching us about our animal friends


The Houston SPCA is heading back to school!

The heat of summer may be sticking around but all of the kids in Houston are headed back to school – and so is the Houston SPCA!

School webpage graphic

The Houston SPCA’s Community Education School Program focuses on teaching children the importance of empathy, kindness, compassion and caring for others while integrating necessary grade level state standards into each lesson plan created for the classroom. We also provide a broader scope of careers for students by relating many animal welfare working opportunities to them through our community education presentations. We frequently participate in school-wide events such as career days, health and safety fairs, environmental fairs and other community-related programs.

Storybook Reading Sessions:

For pre-K – 1st graders, we offer storybook reading sessions. Teachers can pick from our list of children’s books which includes stories about animals being rescued, how to interact with animals you just met and why animal shelters are important. Storybook reading sessions are between 20-30 minutes and can fit into any part of a teacher’s schedule.

Our current storybook collection for the classroom includes:

“Max Talks to Me” – Claire Buchwald.

Alex and his dog, Max, are true friends – the kind that share each other’s excitement, comfort each other when they are sad, wait together when parents are away, and have fun wherever they are. Alex is learning that every good relationship is a mutual one.

“Kamie Cat’s Terrible Night” – Sheila Hamanaka.

Oh no! Someone forgets to put the screen back and Kamie jumps out the window. During her misadventure, Kamie gets a glimpse of how other cats live and comes to appreciate life with kind Mr. Wong.

“Call the Horse Lucky” – Juanita Havill.

While visiting her grandmother in the country, Mel discovers a neglected horse. Moved by the sight of the rib-thin pinto, Mel starts a rescue process that results in the pinto’s being moved to a horse rescue ranch.

“May I Pet Your Dog?” – Stephanie Calmenson.

What’s the best way to meet a dog and make friends? In this book, a dachshund named Harry shows you. Harry’s advice begins with one simple rule: Always ask the owner, “May I pet your dog?”

“Buddy Unchained” – Daisy Bix.

Buddy, a lovable mixed-breed dog, is happy in a new home; he tells the story of his former life and how he was rescued and came to live with a caring family.

“KokoCat, Inside and Out” – Lynda Graham-Barber.

KokoCat, a well-loved house cat, has seen the world only from the safety of her window perch. One day, she takes advantage of an open door and runs away to explore. Once outside, she finds that life is more complicated and less enjoyable than she bargained for.

School Wide Assembly Presentations:

School-wide assemblies are best for multiple age groups and range in length from 45 minutes to 1 hour. Each presentation gives an inside look into the services the Houston SPCA offers the community.

Topics include:

“Career Day: Working with Animals” 

This program focuses on introducing students to the world of animal care and welfare. Students will learn about numerous animal-related careers, how those careers benefit animals, and what qualifications are needed for those positions.

“Animals Get Bullied, Too: There’s No Excuse for Abuse” 

This program introduces the concept of animal cruelty to students and how it relates to bullying between peers. Focusing on empathy and compassion, students will learn what animal cruelty is, what to do if they see an animal being mistreated, and how to spread the word about proper treatment of animals.

“What Are Animals Trying to Tell Us? A Look at Animal Behavior” 

This program describes what animal behavior is, how animals can communicate with each other and humans, and what to do in a variety of scenarios with animals you have just met. Students will learn the differences between animals that are safe to interact with and those that should be left alone.

“Houston SPCA at a Glance: How the Houston SPCA Helps Animals”

This program gives an overview of the Houston SPCA’s mission and services it provides to the Houston community. Students will learn how and why animals are brought to the Houston SPCA, why adopting an animal from a shelter is so important, as well as how they can help our animals from home!

In-Classroom Presentations:

In-classroom presentations are between 45 minutes to 1 hour and include full lesson plans for the teacher to use with their students. We have a variety of lessons available for 2nd – 12th grade that are either single-session lessons or project-based learning lessons.

Project-based learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Students are given the opportunity to solve a real-world problem through extended research and solution-creating projects. Allowing students to learn through action increases the retention rate of taught information. Each PBL style program provided by the Houston SPCA has lesson plans for multiple sessions and a student project with grading rubrics available.

For the Houston SPCA’s full school program curriculum, please click here.

To book your presentation, please e-mail or call our Community Education department (713-869-7722 ext. 143) today.

To support the Houston SPCA’s mission of promoting commitment to and respect for all animals, please click here.

 


Extra! Extra! Read all about these fantastic fifth-graders!

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The fifth grade class at River Oaks Baptist School has made headlines in our hearts. At the beginning of the year, for the past several school years, the fifth grade class has been challenged to collect as much newspaper as they can to donate to the Houston SPCA. Their yearly service project yields stacks of paper to help keep the animals’ kennels comfortable and clean. This year these spectacular students collected SIXTY-SIX BOXES full of newspaper! These eight amazing representatives of the class had the opportunity to visit the shelter and even get a tour as a token of our gratitude.

Bus

And that’s not all! After learning about child labor laws of the early 1900s, all of the students in the class work with their parents to come up with house chores for which they’ll get paid, and then they donate their earned wages to the Houston SPCA. We applaud River Oaks Baptist School for teaching their students to be responsible and humane young citizens and we’re honored to be on the receiving end of their continued generosity.

Way to go, kids!

Boxes

donate button  adopt button  volunteer button  report abuse button


2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for us! We have grown over the past year and hope to keep growing as we continue our mission of humane education.

Have a great 2015 and Happy New Year!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,100 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Avoiding the Back to School Blues – Pet Separation Anxiety

It is that time of year again when backpacks are packed, pencils are sharpened and lunches are ready to go! As students head into a brand new school year, let’s remember that you may still have some furry friends at home who will need your attention.

During the summer months, students who are able to stay at home with their pets can give them lots of love and attention. However, when those students go back to school, their pets may feel some separation anxiety or loneliness.

Some signs that your pet may be feeling a bit anxious or lonely include:

Excessive barking or meowing

Chewing or destructive behavior

Guilty dog chewing woman's shoes

Pacing 

Trying to escape from their home

Urinating or defecating inside the house (outside of the litter box!)

If your pet starts showing signs of separation anxiety, make sure to take them to your veterinarian! Your veterinarian will check to see if there are other issues that would be causing these behaviors.

To help your pets avoid the ‘back to school’ blues, here are a few tips to keep them happy and occupied:

Mental Stimulation

Cat Scratch DJ on Make A Gif

Keeping your pet mentally stimulated throughout the day is one of the best ways to overcome separation anxiety. For cats, cat trees, scratching posts and puzzle feeders with delicious goodies are great ways to keep busy. For dogs, there are many toys that will help keep them busy all day long. My favorite is the PetSafe Busy Buddy Squirrel Dude. I fill the Squirrel Dude with part of my dog’s diet (don’t want them getting too many extra treats!) and some peanut butter. I freeze this combination overnight then give the Squirrel Dude to my dog during the day. It takes a long time for the inside to thaw out and keeps my pup happy for hours. The more your pets are focused on puzzles and toys, the less they are focused on you being out of the house.

Reward Positive Behaviors

cute dog gif

When training your pets (Yes, you can train cats!), you always want to reward your pet for the behaviors you want them to learn. Try to avoid rewarding your cat or dog with attention or treats when they meow or bark at you. Instead, reward them when they are quiet and calm or have found something to keep themselves busy. More interactive training can be beneficial as well. Helping your pets learn how to ‘sit,’ ‘stay’ or ‘lay down’ can help when you are leaving for the day. Training with your pets every day helps to stimulate their minds and moves them toward being more confident in themselves.

Play with Your Pet Every Day

golden retriever life is good gif

One of the best parts of having a pet is getting to play with them! So why not play with them every day for at least 30 minutes? Everyone in the family will enjoying designated play time – your pets will have fun, your family will de-stress and everyone will bond a bit more with each other.

Exercise

Another way to help your pet be a little bit calmer while you are away is to make sure they have exercised before you leave. Taking your dog on a 30 minute walk each day before you head to school, or playing laser-tag with your cat for a while, will help them spend some of the energy they may have put toward being anxious on exercising. Exercising each day will also help keep their weight in check!

Do not Make a Big Deal Out of Leaving

If you think your dog or cat is going to be anxious after you leave for the day, try not to make the goodbye process too long. Animals can sense our emotions and the more upset you are about leaving them at home, the more upset your pets may become when you actually leave. Keep your goodbyes casual and your pet will be less worried about you being gone.

Doggie Daycare and Dog Walkers

Another option for your pet to help with anxiety is to not leave them at home – book them with your local doggie daycare! You can leave your dog in the capable hands of a doggie daycare where the staff will play with your dog, help them socialize with other dogs and feed them if needed. Another option is hiring a dog walker to come to your home and walk your dog once or twice a day. This will help your dog get some much needed exercise which can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Now your family is ready to keep your pet happy and busy all day long!

You aren’t the only ones going back to school this August – the Houston SPCA’s School Program is back in full swing with many brand new sessions available to Houston area schools. Sign-up today to enjoy a free presentation at your school from our Humane Education Instructor. For more information about the Houston SPCA visiting your school, please visit www.HoustonSPCA.org!


Animals adopted from the Houston SPCA helping students!

We just received an update from the KIPP Houston High School Art School about their recently added staff member to their faculty – an adorable bunny rabbit named Mr. Adams!

Mr. Adams was adopted from the Houston SPCA about a year ago to help the students learn about caring for animals responsibly and to have a fun friend in the classroom.

mr adams team captain

Here is an update from their art school teacher, Rebekah Tee:

“Mr. Adams has become a leader at school. He was captain of Onyx (because he has black spots) to earn points at the pumpkin carving contest for his team. Although, some teams were suspicious of his intentions (he started the “carving” early this morning while the pumpkins were on the floor).  As you can see, this bunny is beyond spoiled. He gets fresh veggies every day from staff and students and tons of freedom and love. Now, several students want to adopt a bunny and avoid breeders because there are so many unwanted animals at SPCA.

Seriously, your adopted bunny is quite famous. Thank you!!!”

Team captain supervising

We absolutely love that this classroom has decided to choose the adoption option for a class pet. Having a class pet can help students focus on their studies, open up to someone about issues they may not be comfortable talking about with teachers or friends, and just be there to be a friend when you need it. If you or a teacher you know wants to adopt a pet for their classroom, you can always check out the Houston SPCA to see if we have a furry friend for your students!

Thank you KIPP Houston High School for choosing the Houston SPCA!


Thank you Herrera Elementary and Nottingham Elementary!!

Today I want to give special thanks to a couple of amazing Houston-area elementary schools!

The Houston SPCA would like to thank the Herrera Elementary Green Goat after school program for their fantastic fundraising efforts and their donation of approximately $300 to the Houston SPCA!

From their teachers:

“The students planned and organized the fundraiser themselves. They learned a little bit about the Houston SPCA during their after school program and they had questions about what the animals need and how we could help them.

 The students created flyers and posters to hang around the school advertising a bake sale, and describing what the funds were going to. The students convinced their parents to donate baked goods (either homemade or store bought). After school, the kids sold baked goods all around the school campus. The parents had brought in so much food that we were able to sell for two days instead of just one as we had originally planned.

 The kids were really excited about raising so much money knowing that it would help the animals in need.”

The Herrera Elementary Green Goat after school program is brand new, beginning in September of this year. They focus on environmental and community issues. This is a wonderful group of kids and we appreciate them so much!

Thank you again, Herrera Elementary Green Goat program!

Herrera Elem

The Houston SPCA would also like to thank Nottingham Elementary school for their awesome donation to the Houston SPCA!

As part of their ‘Acts of Kindness Week,’ Nottingham Elementary had a wish-list drive throughout their entire school and donated two full cart loads of in-kind items such as newspapers, toys, treats, beds, and food. We are so proud of their efforts to help give our animals a second chance at life.

We cannot express how much we appreciate the efforts of the children at Nottingham Elementary school! Thank you!!

Nottingham Elementary 1Nottingham Elementary 2

Would you like to contribute to their efforts? Donate now at www.HoustonSPCA.org !

Want to start a donation drive at your school? Check out our wish-list of all the items our shelter needs:

http://hspca.convio.net/site/PageServer?pagename=donate_wish


So You Want a Career in Animal Welfare – PART 3

In parts 1 and 2 of this series we discussed the best ways to get a career in the animal welfare field when attending high school, community college, or a 4-year college / university.

We have now arrived at that wonderful, life-changing, pocket-emptying, sleep depriving, degree obtaining experience of graduate school.

There are many different types of graduate school – medical school, law school, veterinary school, master’s programs and doctoral programs. Depending on what you want to do with the rest of your life, the choice for graduate school can be very easy or very difficult.

During your junior year of college you will want to start preparing to apply to whichever graduate school you wish to attend. This will be determined by what animal welfare career choice you wish to make.

Want to be a veterinarian? Start researching vet schools (hint – there are only about 27 vet schools in the U.S. so it narrows it down a bit for you).

Want to be an animal rights lawyer or lobbyist? Start researching law schools (there are over 200 of these so the choice might be more difficult).

Want to be a marine biologist or wildlife researcher? Start researching graduate programs for your master’s or PhD (this will be more like the first time you applied to college – hundreds of choices!).

And you thought you were done with testing after you took the SATs…

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More tests?!

Each graduate program will require you to take an entrance exam before applying. You WILL need to study for these just like you studied for your SATs (you did study for your SATs right?). These will be difficult, there is no denying it. Be prepared to be up late at night studying flashcards and doing math problems you haven’t done since high school.

To apply to a master’s or PhD program you will need to take the GRE – Graduate Record Examinations. This test will consist of verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills that they think you should have acquired in your time at college. They do not test you on any particularly specific thing. There are many books and study guides out there to help you prepare for the GRE. The GRE is a computer based test that your college will most likely proctor at certain dates throughout the school year. Sign up for those at the end of your junior year or very beginning of your senior year of college.

To apply to veterinary school you will need to take the GRE or the MCAT – Medical College Admission Test. Some vet schools will take the MCAT in lieu of the GRE so it really depends on where you are applying and which test you think you will do best on. The MCAT is a tough one, though, so choose wisely.

To apply to law school you will need to take the LSAT – Law School Admissions Test. The LSAT is a half-day standardized test administered four times each year at designated testing centers throughout the world. It is designed to assess reading comprehension, logical, and verbal reasoning proficiencies.

So you’ve taken your entrance exams and want to apply to graduate programs – what else do you need?

There are going to be many things you need to get into graduate school other than your entrance exam scores.

First, keep your grades up! Do not slack off junior or senior year – keep that GPA high. You will be competing with some of the best minds in the world so you will want to keep working hard to earn that bachelor’s degree.

You will need letters of recommendation – and no, your mom and dad can’t write them for you (even if you are their special little bundle of joy)! You will have to ask professors you are close to, your employer, or college advisers to write glowing letters of recommendation to send to the schools you are applying to. This may seem really really awkward at first BUT they are used to being asked to write letters for students so do not be afraid to ask them. The worst they can say is ‘no’ and then you move on to another person. Make sure to ask people who actually like you… it could be bad if you send graduate programs letters that don’t paint you in the best light.

Something you may need to do (not all programs do this) is contact a faculty member in the department you are applying to so they can sponsor your application. Again, this may seem awkward but all you need to do is e-mail them or call them and hopefully they will help you out. Do not be afraid!

Lastly – essays. Be prepared to write a bunch of essays. At least you can type them so your hands won’t hurt but they will want to know more about you and why you want to attend. Write them with passion and full of the best parts of yourself. Do not hold back! Show them how amazing you are!

OK you’ve applied, gotten into your top vet school / law school / graduate school … now what?

Be prepared to have absolutely positively no social life for a few years! I promise it will be worth it!

l-Computer-cat

That deadline isn’t going to go away anytime soon!

You are going to work really hard while in your graduate program. You will have sleepless nights, endless amounts of research to do, classes you will have to teach, papers you will have to submit for publication, surgical practice, and so much more.

  • A master’s program will take approximately 2 years of study and if you wish to continue on to obtain your doctorate (PhD) you will have another 2-6 years and a thesis to create.
  • A law degree will take 3 years of study and you will then have to pass the Bar Examination to obtain your Juris Doctor or J.D.
  • You will spend 4 years in veterinary school, after which you will have internships and residencies to complete your training as a vet. After your four years you will have to pass a Veterinary Board Exam to get your degree as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

After all of that, you have the degree you want and now you are ready to enter the field of working with animals. What do you need to do?

Apply. Apply. Apply.

Find positions that would fit your qualifications and work towards getting that job.

Graduates from vet school should find a practice to do their residency (a time in which you are learning specific surgical or medical practices from a veteran in the field).

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Law school graduates should start researching practices that work towards animal rights or represent animals against cruelty and neglect. If they want to be a lobbyist, find an animal welfare organization that needs help and start speaking out for them.

lawyer dog

If you have obtained your master’s or doctorate in an animal welfare related field, you will probably already be working for a university in that field. You will want to try to establish yourself with that college/university and obtain tenure (so they can’t get rid of you). Keep doing what you love – you have already made it!

marine biologist

Still can’t find a position working with or for animals?  

Start from the bottom – even though you probably have loads of debt from school (we all do) you may need to start in an entry level position to work your way up. That probably isn’t what you want to hear but hard work always pays off in the end. Your education will pay you back when you work your way up the ladder.

And now – you have the animal welfare career you have always wanted – enjoy life! Work hard and live well. Share you love of animals with the world!

Check back every week for a new post all about animals and education!

Check out http://www.HoustonSPCA.org to see all of the amazing animals we have available for adoption!