After learning about the plight of dogs in puppy mills, eighth grade HEART students at Courtenay Language Arts Center in Chicago decided they wanted to take action to help. The students organized the school’s very first Puppy Mill Awareness week, helping to educate all of their classmates about the issue and how they can all help the dogs who are suffering in mills.
In order to successfully pull off such an ambitious event, the students researched puppy mills for weeks by reading articles and speaking with experts on the topic so that they could fully understand the scope of the issue, and become knowledgeable enough to become teachers themselves.
Once they were informed, they had to decide as a group the best way that they could make a difference for animals. Students thought of dozens of ways they could help, but had a difficult time narrowing down their ideas to one project. That is when they decided to combine all of their ideas into one big action by organizing an entire week devoted to raising awareness about puppy mills at their school.
The Puppy Mill Awareness Week included daily morning announcements with facts about puppy mills, students visiting the classrooms of younger students to read Ruby’s Story (a children’s book about a dog from a puppy mill), and a basketball game fundraiser that raised $150 for a local animal shelter.
The week culminated with an assembly featuring a presentation created by the eighth grade students and speakers from The Puppy Mill Project and Found. Found’s Senior Rehabilitation Trainer, Jeff Jenkins, and his canine companion, Junebug, wowed the school’s packed auditorium with a fun-filled performance. After the assembly one of the teachers wrote about the experience, “our students will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Here is what some of the participating students had to say about the project:
“Our project addressed the problem of puppy mills by educating the public about the effects of puppy mills on both people and dogs. We used an upbeat approach to get our message out to the people of our school.”
“There are many ways our project helped address the problem of puppy mills. One way it helped was that we hung up posters saying what a puppy mill was and how harmful it was to animals…Another way was, we made a skit for the middle school informing them about the lives of the puppies that live in puppy mills and I think that really got their attention. When we held the assembly for the younger kids, I think bringing in speakers helped also because they really paid attention to the presentation and they also responded to questions which shows us that they were really interested and wanted to know about it.”
“I will keep informing others about the situation in case they’re buying from a suspicious place. Finally, if I get a puppy I’ll make sure to get it from an animal shelter and not a pet shop or puppy mill.”
We couldn’t be prouder of the students at Courtenay Language Arts Center and look forward to seeing what they’ll do for their next service project!
Teaching Tip: To teach your own students about puppy mills, check out HEART’s activity “Puppy Mills Exposed” for grades 6-8 and HEART’s lesson “A Happy Home for Every Dog and Cat” for grades 3-5 in our Humane Resource Guide. You can use our video “What Is a Puppy Mill?” to educate your students about the issue.