Animal News Desk / Cathy Kangas
I can't emphasize enough the importance of having an education program to teach children about our responsibilities toward animals. There is a wonderful organization called United WAG in Miami, Fla., that offers animal welfare education curriculum online that is currently being used in the Miami-Dade County public schools from kindergarten through eighth grade. I urge parents and teachers to visit its website, www.unitedwag.org, and download materials.
The Animal Welfare Education program developed by educators features lesson plans on shelter dogs, penguins, protecting a pet, pets in other countries, planning for hurricanes and other disasters and discussions about spay-neuter programs. The animal welfare curriculum addresses nine core values: Citizenship, cooperation, fairness, honesty, integrity, kindness, pursuit of excellence, respect, and responsibility.
Each lesson plan incorporates one of the following components: Language arts, mathematics, social studies, or science. All of the lesson plans, as well as a fact sheet summarizing the successes of this project, are available at no charge.
Yvonne Grassie, a shareholder with the law firm of Greenberg Traurig, founded UWAG in 2005. She wanted the organization to be more than just a way to improve the welfare of animals in Miami-Dade Country. She envisioned UWAG as a pioneer in the area of humane education around the country. The organization is run largely by volunteers, which means that almost 100 percent of all contributions and funding goes back to the community via program development.
"I wanted to create a different kind of animal welfare organization -- one that gives back to the community, but also has a broader national reach," Ms. Grassie said. "That's why the humane education program is so important. As soon as children enter kindergarten, they should learn that we are responsible for protecting all animals. Teachers will find this program invaluable in that it incorporates lessons on animals within the curriculum they are required to teach. We also offer teachers a book list that will enhance their knowledge of animal welfare."
I hope that one day Connecticut schools will make humane organization a priority, but until that time the program created by UWAG will teach our children that we are stewards charged with protecting animals, whether they be the dog or cat we love so much, the deer we spot in our forests or the Canadian baby seals brutally killed for their fur.
The philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote: "He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."
I applaud UWAG and Yvonne Grassie for taking the necessary steps to educate children so they will know from an early age that animals should never be mistreated and it is our job to protect them.
New Canaan resident Cathy Kangas is a member of the Humane Society of the United States' National Council. As the owner of PRAI Beauty Inc., an international skincare company, she started Beauty with a Cause, and commits a percentage of her company's profits to help animal welfare organizations around the world.