Tag Archives: animals

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

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

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

4- Freedom from Fear and Distress

This week we will be discussing the fourth of the Five Freedoms: the freedom from fear and distress. This freedom is about providing animals with conditions and treatment that do not cause them to suffer mentally or physically. Read the following blog with your students to learn more! Have you ever heard strange noises at…Continue Reading

3- Freedom from Pain, Injury, and Disease

Welcome back to our Five Freedom series! This week we will be covering the third of the Five Freedoms: The Freedom from Pain, Injury, and Disease. This freedom is all about preventing health issues in domestic animals, and rapidly diagnosing and treating them when they do occur. Read the following blog with your students to…Continue Reading

2 – Freedom from Discomfort

This week we will be discussing the second of the Five Freedoms: The Freedom from Discomfort! This freedom is all about ensuring we provide domestic animals comfort which is achieved in different ways. Read the following blog with your students to learn more. At the end of a long day, where do you want to…Continue Reading

1 – Freedom from Thirst and Hunger

As mentioned in last week’s blog, we are doing a weekly blog series for the next month about the Five Freedoms! This week we will be discussing the first of the Five Freedoms: the Freedom from Thirst and Hunger. This Freedom is all about ensuring animals are provided with ready access to fresh water and…Continue Reading

Exploring the Five Freedoms

Developing a sense of responsibility is a critical component of character and citizenship education. We will be exploring this theme through addressing our obligation to be responsible for animals in our care. The more we learn about animals, what they need to be healthy, how they feel safe, what they like or dislike, etc., the…Continue Reading

Alberta’s New Curriculum – an opportunity for leadership in humane values

The current review of provincial curriculum – being conducted by Alberta Education in partnership with the Alberta Teachers’ Association – provides a unique opportunity to incorporate positive, effective changes in our schools to help students’ character development through humane education. Indeed, we can become the first province to explicitly include humane education in the provincial…Continue Reading

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