HEART has taken its message of compassion, empathy and living a more humane life to Long Island. Supported by a generous grant from the ASPCA, HEART’s New York City office has started expanding its programming across Long Island.
In 2012 we had an exciting field trip to Seraphim12 Foundation’s horse farm in Long Island for schoolteachers in our professional development course in humane education and last summer we taught a program for campers at Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds in Wyandanch. We also conducted two day-long humane education training workshops for animal advocates in Cold Spring Harbor, sponsored by the ASPCA and PAWS. We are so pleased to be broadening our presence on Long Island and partnering with other non-profit organizations.
In the Fall of 2012, HEART instructor Chris Parrucci began a ten-lesson program at Saddle Rock Elementary School in Great Neck, teaching two third grade classes about a wide variety of issues surrounding companion animal overpopulation, puppy mills, factory farming, endangered species, animal communication and much more. A highlight of the unit was when the students taught one another about the plight of endangered species like polar bears, tigers, black rhinos and brown pelicans. While working in small groups, students read passages about a particular animal, how human behavior has led to the animal’s endangerment and what people can do about it. “The students relished being the ‘experts’ on their animals. Each of them felt a deep connection to their animal after reading a story about how their animal and family were negatively impacted by people’s actions. Students were quick to share the information they learned and eager to emphasize to the rest of the class how each of them could help save these endangered beings,” noted Chris. When the final week came, students and instructor alike were sad to see it end.
Not uncommon at the end of a program, the students created thank you cards, expressing their gratitude for the program and sharing some of the topics that had the biggest impact. One student wrote, “Thank You! You taught us about puppy mills and littering… I am gonna do the best I can to help the earth.” Another student said, “Thank you [so] much for teaching HEART. It has been the highlight of my year. I LOVE ANIMALS. Everyday when I wake up I want it to be HEART. It has made me a better person.” Summarizing the overall experience, Erin Nastri, one of the Saddle Rock teachers said, “The HEART program has been such an enriching experience for our students. They learned how to care for themselves, their environment and the animals around them through videos, discussion and hands on experience. We can’t wait to implement the program in future years.”
Long Island classrooms weren’t the only places where HEART’s impact was felt. For four weeks early this year, HEART ran an after-school program at the Girls and Boys Club in Oyster Bay at the invitation of Mixed Breeds in Need. Children from the surrounding neighborhoods examined issues facing all sorts of animals and, more importantly, some of the solutions to these issues. In fact, after learning about shelters and animal homelessness, the children created catnip sock toys for cats currently living in shelters. Decorating their socks with pro-adoption messages like “Please Adopt Me” and “Pick Me,” the children not only got into the spirit of service learning but also supplied some needy cats with some wonderful toys.
The expansion has gone so well that we’ve been invited back to Saddle Rock to teach our program to the remaining third grade classes this semester. Most recently, on May 8th, HEART conducted a companion animal workshop at the Mastic YMCA. Over 30 adults, teenagers and children from the Shirley-Mastic area of Long Island learned all about companion animal issues and responsible guardianship at the hour and a half event sponsored by RSVP Inc. Animal Welfare and Rescue and the ASPCA. The workshop attendees were treated to a couple of four-legged special guests, Wrinkles and Cinnamon, a mother and daughter pit bull family that also happen to be service and therapy dogs, respectively. In addition to spending some quality time with two cuddly dogs, the attendees learned about companion animal needs, overpopulation and “investigated” a case as honorary humane investigators. Students learned about proper animal care while conducting an “investigation” into a neglect case that had a happy ending with a lovable labrador-mix finding a new, caring forever home. The workshop was such a success that we are partnering with RSVP Inc. to offer a humane education summer program at the Mastic YMCA to be conducted by RSVP volunteers trained to teach lessons developed by HEART!