“Protecting Animals, Teaching Children”

Sheryl Dickstein Pipe, Ph.D.

 

Protecting Animals, Teaching Children

To create harmonious relationships between people and animals, cultivating appreciation and respect, thereby eliminating any suffering caused to animals through human activities.
–Mission Statement of the Fundacion de Proteccion Animal


Thanks to a group of motivated citizens, animals in southern Ecuador have a voice. In 1999, the people of the city of Loja founded the Fundacion de Proteccion Animal (FPA), the first animal welfare organization in the area. These citizens, in conjunction with United States Peace Corps volunteers, have been striving ever since to achieve the FPA’s mission through public education and community outreach. Their ultimate goal is to arrive at effective, humane solutions to Loja’s animal welfare problems.

The FPA runs several different programs and initiatives within the community. It worked to pass animal control ordinances that called for leash laws and the end of strychnine poisoning of stray animals. According to Elizabeth Daut, D.V.M., a Peace Corps volunteer working with the FPA, these ordinances were approved by the legislative body of Loja in January 2002 and were included in the new city codes issued in March. The FPA also runs a spay/neuter program and works with the local zoo to enhance animal enclosures and create signage that makes trips to the zoo more educational. Information about these programs, along with rules for responsible pet guardianship, are disseminated to the people of Loja through TV, radio, newspapers, brochures and posters.

Teach Your Children Well

Since October 2000, the FPA has also run an innovative humane education program for nine- to 12-year-olds called the “Enrichment Club of Loja.” Since its inception, a total of 62 students and three university-level education interns have participated in the program. The program is so popular that a waiting list is sometimes necessary.

During the eight-week program, the club focuses on topics such as proper pet care, recycling, and using the five senses to better appreciate nature. Anne Umali, a Peace Corps volunteer who coordinates the program, notes that “there are always more topics than time.” The teaching methods consist of classroom discussions, hands-on projects and field trips that enable the children to experience nature firsthand. The education interns learn how to incorporate these innovative methods into their own classrooms.

Umali points out the club’s multicultural component. “We exchange letters, drawings and photos with similar clubs in Germany and the United States, which gives us an opportunity to learn about other countries’ wildlife, ecosystems, foods and traditions,” she says. “During the last course, our students learned about the different seasons in Germany, and they were quite surprised to find out that Germans keep guinea pigs as pets and do not eat these delicacies, as they do in Ecuador.”

To date, the FPA has coordinated one informal environmental education workshop for teachers. Ten teachers from 10 different elementary schools in Ecuador were selected because their students participated in the club in the past. Future teacher workshops are currently being planned, as is a manual for the teachers of Loja explaining how to incorporate informal environmental education into the classroom. The manual will include project, activity and field trip ideas, as well as local resources for the educators.

Unexpected Rewards

In November 2001, Jill Stratton, another Peace Corps volunteer working with the FPA, started an Enrichment Club at the Albergue Padre Julio Villaroel Ocaña orphanage in Loja. “Working with the children at the orphanage is challenging,” Stratton says, “but watching them make their own discoveries and helping them become interested and engaged in the world they live in makes it more than worth it.”

Umali agrees. She says her most rewarding experiences with the FPA have come from the Enrichment Club. “A lot of the children are learning about these topics for the first time, and everything is so new to them. The best thing is taking the children out to the rainforests. Nothing beats watching their faces as they curiously follow a butterfly down a trail, or observe a family of leaf cutter ants. I experience that same awe over and over again with them.”

For more information about the FPA and its programs, contact Dr. Elizabeth Daut at efdaut@yahoo.com.

Dr. Pipe is the former director of ASPCA Humane Education.

© 2002 ASPCA

ASPCA Animal Watch – Summer 2002


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