START SMALL DREAM BIG 2020
Responsible and Considerate Pet Ownership
Agape Little Uni @ Upper Serangoon
In conjunction with the Innovation Guidance Project - Responsible and Considerate Pet Ownership 2020, the Nursery 2 to Kindergarten 2 children of Agape Little Uni @ Upper Serangoon went through a two month learning experience about what constitutes responsible and considerate behaviours as pet owners.
Throughout the journey, the children experienced proper pet care habits and behaviours using different avenues such as virtual pet care applications; role playing with pet care sets; engaging in guest sharing sessions and advocating for responsible pet care to the community. They also understood concepts such as what are pets, different considerations for specific types of pets and what abuse and neglect towards pets meant.
As there were few children at Agape Little Uni @ Upper Serangoon who owned pets, we came up with a few ideas to give children who had no opportunities to care for physical pets, a chance to experience what it felt to constantly show care for their animals. Caring for virtual pets through online applications such as My Pet Shop and DogTown using the iPad was one of them. Using the 2 iPads available in our centre, the classes took turns on a weekly basis to care for their pets. They got a chance to choose their type of pet, name their pets and care for them according to a checklist prepared. This reminded the children about the responsibilities of taking care of a pet meant it was an everyday job and not something they can just forgo whenever they want to.
Another way of establishing a routine for the children and to advocate the responsibilities when caring for pets was through prepared pet care sets for animals such as dogs, cats, hamsters and fishes. The care set included different necessity items for each different type of animal such as treats for dogs; a scratching pole for cats; chew toys for hamsters and also a fish tank for fishes. The children took turns to feed and care for a specific type of animal across two weeks before exchanging with another class. Every class had an opportunity to care for the different pets and gained some experience.
Through our activities, we also covered what types of animals can actually be kept as pets and which belonged in the wildlife category. For example, we shared with the children that animals such as hedgehogs are not allowed to be kept as pets in Singapore. The children also drew out their understanding of these topics.
To help the children understand the varying needs of different types of pets and to instill the values of responsibilities that they need to understand before they own or adopt a pet, we had a small collaboration with some of our parents and a member of the community. Firstly, we communicated with some of the families with pets to take pictures and videos of their children interacting and caring with their house pets. The parents put in a lot of effort in collating the images for documentation and their children were given the opportunity to share about their experiences with their classmates. Through the short clips that showcased the ways of taking care of their pet animals such as feeding, playing, grooming, the children spoke to their friends and answered some of the questions asked during the session.
We also invited a friend from our community who kept parrots as pets to film a short video about how she cares for her birds. Due to the current Covid-19 situation, we were unable to invite her into the centre so we utilised Zoom to conduct a short Question and Answer session for the children to speak with her.
The last component of our Guest Sharing Sessions was where our dear teachers brought their pet into our Centre. The teachers showed the children items which they would bring when going on walks with their dogs, such as water and leash, they also shared with the children what they enjoy doing with their pets as a play time. To incorporate the attribute of being a considerate pet owner, the teachers also shared some important tips to note when walking dogs, which is to rinse off the dog’s pee with water during walks and putting them on a leash at all times as a form of precaution for others as well. Most of the children gathered their courage to interact with the pets and showed their love by petting them and giving them treats.
To conclude the children’s learning journey, they wished to raise awareness to the public about the importance of careful consideration before getting a pet and how adopting is much better than buying one. To do so, the children drew out a poster covering the message which they personally felt was most important to being a responsible and considerate pet owner.
The classes created their posters in their own unique ways and distributed them out to the public. On one of our outdoor walks, the children met different passersby who were walking their dogs or cycling and handed their posters. Some others decided to disseminate their posters through the mailboxes.