Unable to assist the rescue in traditional ways due to their ages, Ogden’s students formed Woodcliff Animal Rescue Engineers (WCare) in 2008. Through the extracurricular club sponsored by Ogden and technology teacher Fred Matzan, students use technology skills learned in the classroom to promote animal rescue.
The partnership between WCare and The Last Resort exemplifies an increasingly popular education model and a national trend in animal rescue. Service learning combines community service with social and academic learning. Service-learning projects allow students to gain firsthand knowledge and hands-on experience while effecting change in their community. These projects encourage a high level of engagement in the cause and the learning process.
“Students become more concerned citizens and are more likely to stay committed to a cause after the project is completed,” says Ogden. “Likewise, students become more active learners and are better equipped for future academic and social success.”
More than 20 WCare members meet weekly to create digital videos of The Last Resort’s dogs and cats, aiding in their adoptions by drawing attention to their unique qualities. With these videos, Ogden’s students make a significant contribution to the rescue.
“Unlike many of our adult volunteers, children are tech savvy,” Ogden says. “They have the skills and the time to create persuasive videos, incorporate music to set the mood and post them on You Tube for Potential adopters to view.”
WCare is a valuable experience for the students too. “In addition to practicing their technical skills, students learn how to edit photos and sound to reach people with a specific message,” Ogden explains. “They have to carefully consider purpose, audience and communication strategies. The world is changing rapidly. More people are watching videos than reading. These skills are going to be invaluable to these students’ futures.”
WCare students are also developing leadership and social skills through engagement with their community. Students are fostering dogs with their families and assisting with adoption events. They are coordinating fundraisers and attending community events to raise awareness for rescue, and several past members have started rescue clubs in their high schools.
“These children are becoming concerned citizens who will be a force to be reckoned with,” says Ogden.
The Haven-Friends for Life in Raeford, NC, takes a different approach to service learning with its animal rescue internship program. The program offers people 18 or older hands-on learning in administration, photography, building and contracting, graphic design, dog grooming, writing and outdoor recreation. Internships require a commitment of 20 hours per week with at least one eight hour weekend day.
The Haven started its internship program in 2009 but always has welcomed people seeking an educational experience with the rescue. When David Osgood, of Dedham, MA, was stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC, the animal loving-sergeant began volunteering at The Haven. Upon realizing the high level of need at the rescue, he decided to formalize nd promote the internship program.
“The Haven has a real need for quality volunteers who are passionate and professional,” Osgood says. “Volunteers work hard with no pay. To have someone who is self-motivated do the job makes all the difference in this kind of work. Our interns have wonderful drive and make The Haven a much stronger organization.
Osgood also recognizes the program’s benefits for the interns. Our program gives interns a wealth of opportunities,” he says. “They gain skills and, if they wish, credit hours while working for a good cause. Employers today are happy if you have a degree, but what they really want to see on your resume is work experience. If you can point to proven results – hours worked, projects completed – you will be far ahead. This advantage is something The Haven can provide.”
Career preparation and an advantage in the work force are valuable benefits of service-learning experience at rescue organizations, especially for people interested in pursuing a shelter or veterinary career. The Teen Track program at the Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA (AAWL) in Phoenix, focuses on teaching sixth through 12th grade students about animal rescue.
Teen Trackers receive in-depth training in animal body language and animal handling skills, assist with daily care of the pets, observe and shelter veterinary clinic staff members, participate in guest presentations and education field trips, and help lead shelter programs.
Students participate in a minimum six weekend shifts during the semester-long course. As they complete training and accomplish projects and volunteer tasks, students advance through the program’s levels: caregiver, handler and curator. With each level comes advanced training and greater responsibility.
Program coordinator Rachael Gardner of Phoenix says most Teen Trackers participate in the program because they want to work in animal-related careers. “The Teen Track program gives them a head start,” she says. “Students also learn responsibility and gain public speaking, problem solving, team building and leadership skills.”
In return, Teen Trackers help to change staff members’ perceptions about teenagers’ capabilities. “I think there are perceptions in our society that teenagers are self-absorbed and don’t care,” Gardner says. “The Teen Track program shows they can accomplish a goal and help society.”
Service-learning collaborations offer numerous benefits to students while helping to advance animal rescue goals and create long-term animal rescue supporters.
“I can’t think of anything more empowering than these students discovering they have the ability to change the world,” Ogden says. “The thousands of animals I have rescued pale in comparison to the impact these students will have on the future.”