Category Archives: Blog

Summer Reads for Teachers

We usually highlight great animal-themed books for your students, but this list is just for you! The following suggested reads span fiction to non-fiction and are guaranteed to kindle your curiosity about animals and spark reflection about our relationship to them.

Saving Manno by Spencer Sekyer (autobiographical, Canadian)

Spencer Sekyer is a Sherwood Park teacher who began “really travelling” at the age of 41 in order to gain a global perspective to share with his social studies students. On one of his overseas trips he became acquainted with a young chimpanzee, named Manno, who was living in a cramped cage in Iraqi Kurdistan. Thoughts of this young chimp stayed with Sekyer after he was back in Canada for another school year.  When Jane Goodall was in Edmonton speaking in 2015, Spencer lined up with those seeking her autograph and to see what could be done to help this baby chimp. With Jane’s advice and connections, Sekyer set out to improve the life of his friend. This book demonstrates the difference that one person can make and that it’s never too late to achieve your goals.

To learn more, watch Spencer Sekyer in a  March 2019 interview on Global News Edmonton.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (fiction)

This book is told from the perspective of Enzo, the dog, alongside his race car driving owner.  Although anthropomorphized (Enzo claims to have a near-human soul), the book does an incredible job of giving insight into the perspective of a companion animal. Enzo recounts life and its transitions; the shifting attention as new people enter the owner’s life, his subjection to a violent outburst and the good times spent with his owner visiting race tracks. I finished the book having a deeper appreciation of the profound impact of everyday actions on the lives of our pets, as well as new insight into the human condition.

Consider reading this book as a group! Here are some book club discussion questions from Stein’s website. There is also a movie coming out based on this read, here’s the trailer.

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? By Frans de Waal (non-ficiton)

Dr. Frans de Waal is a primatologist and ethologist and makes the case that we should seek to understand the intelligence of animals through the context of that animal. Humans are notorious for interpreting animal intelligence through the lens of being human (devaluing traits and skills in other animals that we lack ourselves). This book looks at the complex and sophisticated lives of a variety of species of animals, some of which have been historically underappreciated. The book is a fascinating read (or listen – I enjoyed this as an audiobook), that will have you looking at animals in a new light.

Better With Books: 500 diverse books to ignite empathy and encourage self-acceptance in Tweens and Teens By Melissa Hart (non-fiction)

Better with Books discusses the power that literature yields at igniting empathy, and provides 500 books that address a variety of complex issues that are rife in the lives of young people. From exploring self-image to understanding newcomers to our connection with the natural world, not only can empathy to others be enhanced, the author suggests that when kids see their own worries and experiences reflected in a book, they can also become kinder to themselves.

In her introduction, Hart highlights how after reading The One and Only Ivan, her daughter took a passionate interest into the plight of homeless dogs and cats, and paid greater attention to the well-being of her own animals. With this type of positive change the author questions, “Why wouldn’t we encourage powerful epiphany through literature.”

Although not specific to animals, this is a great read to turn you on to other books that will foster empathy in your classroom.

*views in the books do not necessarily represent the views of the Alberta SPCA.


Animals in the classroom: Responsibilities & Rewards

Mrs. Ainslie-O’Connor is a seasoned grade three teacher who has incorporated classroom animals in her teaching for about 10 years. I met with Mrs. Ainslie-O’Connor in her brightly lit grade three classroom in Spruce Grove and was introduced to some of her furry – and not so furry – friends.  She has a six-year old guinea…Continue Reading

Volunteer Spotlight – April 2019

The Alberta SPCA Education Department is fortunate to have two wonderful volunteers that help us connect teachers to humane education resources they can use in their classroom. Whether it is coming into the office once a week, or helping us at special events, our volunteers are an integral part of our department being able to…Continue Reading

What to Expect with AnimalTales

Are you thinking about getting AnimalTales but not sure what to expect? This blog is intended to give you a better idea of how AnimalTales can be used in your classroom. The AnimalTales program is easily adaptable; each activity can be modified to fit the needs of your class. You can spend as much or…Continue Reading

The Rise of Alternatives

Technology is paving the way for advances in science and medicine, and providing opportunities for learning, through the use of alternatives. From Organ-on-a-Chip to a virtual dissection table, superior methods to the traditional use of animals for education and research and being created and implemented. In science classrooms, dissection has been a popular activity since…Continue Reading

Animals and Remembrance Day

This Remembrance Day marks 100 years since the end of the First World War. Over 650,000 men and women from Canada served in this war, with 66,000 of those making the ultimate sacrifice. That is one in ten people who never returned home to their loved ones. Working alongside these brave men and women were…Continue Reading

Help animals in your community through a ‘Class Action’ Project!

Alberta SPCA ‘Class Action’ projects to help animals are the perfect opportunity to engage your students in service learning. Service learning projects address curricular outcomes while providing an opportunity to make a positive impact in the community. These projects help students build skills such as goal setting and critical thinking, and can help improve self-esteem…Continue Reading

Every One Counts Contest Prize Recipients!

We are happy to announce the prize recipients of the Every One Counts contest! Many of the entries were strong contenders, so to say it was a difficult decision would be an understatement. The three entries selected to receive a prize did a great job of telling us why the animals count and what actions…Continue Reading

Volunteer Spotlight – April 2018

We are fortunate to have two dedicated volunteers to help in our education program. From helping with our book lending program, to translating material for our recently launched French website, much of what we do would not be possible without the help of these fantastic individuals. With it being National Volunteer Week, we wanted to…Continue Reading

Five Reasons for AnimalTales

AnimalTales is a free book lending program (grades K-6) that encourages students to become more compassionate and develop a greater respect for all living things. This program was started in 2010 and is continually being updated with new books and materials! The feedback we get from teachers is overwhelmingly positive; in fact, many teachers use…Continue Reading

Blog posts represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Alberta SPCA.