HELPING TEACHERS INSPIRE COMPASSION FOR ANIMALS, PEOPLE & THE ENVIRONMENT

Character Education

Division 3: Grade 7+

Below are discussion questions and activities to spark curiosity in and foster compassion for animals, people, and the environment. Both the discussion questions and activities are part of the ‘Stay Curious’ character education theme for the 2019-2020 school year! To see other character building themes, click here!

Discussion Questions:

  • What does it mean to be curious?
  • How does being curious about a topic impact learning?
  • Who are some famous curious people?
  • Can animals be curious? If so, how can you tell? Can we know how animals feel through observation?
  • Look at the poster, how has the artist conveyed curiosity? do you think it is effective?
  • Humans are naturally curious. Can you think of any examples when human curiosity has impacted others (animals, people, the environment) both positively and negatively?
  • Why is it important to continue to learn about animals? People? The environment? What is the impact on society?

Activities:

1. Animal Behaviour Science

Scientists, such as Dr. Jane Goodall, use their curiosity to change how we see the world! Dr. Goodall spent years living with, and observing, chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Here she discovered how similar chimpanzees are to humans! As a class, watch the video “Dancing Frostie” (2:42).

  • Post Video Discussion Questions
    • Do you think dancing is a natural behaviour of budgies?
    • Why do you think budgies dance to music?
    • Are there other species that dance to music?
    • What other questions do you have?

Ask students to observe an animal (pet or wildlife) they find interesting, either in person or online (there are many animal behaviour videos online or watch an Animal Cam). Have students look for an interesting behaviour the animal displays (ex. dog chasing his tail, chickens rolling in dirt, budgies preening themselves). Have students hypothesize why the behaviour occurs and then individually or in pairs, research the animal to discover reasons for the behaviour. Once they have discovered the answer, have students make a short , one minute video and present to the class. For examples, watch a few “Fun Fact Friday” videos on the
Everylivingthing Teachers Facebook page.

NOTE: Part of the reason budgies can dance is because they are complex vocal learners and are able to connect sound and movement. For a more detailed answer, read this article.

2. Exotic Pets

A pet is an animal that we keep for companionship. Domesticated animals such as dogs, cats, and many species of farm animals have been living with humans for thousands of years and through artificial selection have adapted to living with (and relying on) humans to meet their needs. In recent times, other non
-traditional animals (exotics) are being kept as pets. Many exotics have retained their wild behaviours and require specialized care that many people are unfamiliar with.

Ask students to research an exotic pet they find interesting (ex. rabbit, ferret, fish, budgie, etc.). Have students research the animal’s needs (diet, appropriate environment, behavioural needs, health, handling). Have students create a pamphlet on how to best care for the animal.

OPTION: This activity can be done by addressing the Five Freedoms for animals. This is an internationally recognized concept used by professionals in animal care and welfare.

3. Exotic Pet Trade

Some species of rare exotic pets can be bred in captivity, but in some cases they are
taken from the wild by humans, affecting not only the animal, but the ecosystems the animal comes from.

As a class watch the National Geographic video “China’s Exotic Pet Trade” (7:15).

Note: Exotic pet trade is a global issue! There are animals destined for the pet trade that are smuggled illegally into Canada.

Post Video Discussion Questions

  • How do these rare exotic pets differ from traditional pets like dogs and cats?
  • Are there any exotic species of animals that are illegal to own in Alberta?
  • The video mentions people often get exotic animals because they are ‘fashionable’ or ‘cool’. Do you think this is a good reason to get a pet? Why or why not?
  • What are some repercussions that come from people getting exotic pets (both on the animal’s welfare and ecosystem)?
  • Are there other examples of human wants impacting animals, people, and the environment?

Individually or in groups, have students investigate the impact of the exotic pet trade on animals and the environment. What role do humans play? Should the desire of people wanting to have these exotic animals as pets outweigh the impact it is causing? Why or Why not?

Have students create a social media campaign aimed at educating their peers about the impact of the exotic pet trade. First, have students think of the key objective/message of the campaign, and what type of format (ex. text, pictures, GIFs, videos, etc.) would best get their message across using a variety of platforms. Using their research findings, students can create eye catching infographics, short impactful videos or write a persuasive post/blog in hopes of making their campaign go viral! Have students create a few different digital assets for their campaign.

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