The Outreach Team delivers presentations on a variety of themes. Docents and staff integrate specific humane education messages in all outreach programs. The messages are framed in the concept that there are exciting animals all around the world, including in our own homes and backyards. Docents and staff convey the message that all living creatures – human and non-human – have similar basic needs. The care and responsibility of our environment as well as animal welfare and environmental conservation are also stressed.
The Society’s school programs use a variety of teaching strategies, including audio-visual presentations, storytelling and puppets.
Local and Regional Community Events
The Society participates in many community events throughout the year. An integral part of the traveling programs, the Berman Academy for Humane Education offers information such as the Shades of Green Guides and Seafood Watch Guides that encourage people to think about their impact on the Earth and provides them with tools that help to lessen their ecological footprint.
The Detroit Zoological Society received a 2010 Significant Achievement in Education award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for its City Critters outreach program. The award, presented at the AZA Annual Conference in Houston, Texas, recognizes outstanding achievement in educational program design.
City Critters enables children to develop an awareness of the animals that share their neighborhoods. Learning about these creatures enables children to better understand and appreciate them. Children are encouraged to study and enjoy wildlife from a distance. This program teaches strategies to peacefully co-exist or simply avoid disturbing certain types of wildlife.
City Critters also includes a discussion on responsible pet care. Children are taught that their pets rely upon them to provide for all of their needs, including food, fresh water, exercise and love. The importance of always having proper identification on their pet is also emphasized.
The City Critters outreach program is offered to schools and agencies including Detroit Public Schools, Children’s Hospital and public libraries throughout the year.
City Critters Goals
• To promote an ethic of gentleness for other living creatures
• To create better awareness and empathy of wildlife that share our environments
• To promote appropriate pet choice and care (along with our colleagues at MHS)
City Critters Key Concepts
• All animals are remarkable
• Humans have changed the natural environment. Some animals have adapted to this changed environment and reside in urban areas
• Wild animals are different than domestic animals
• Wild animals should be enjoyed from a distance so as not to disturb them
• Wild animals can harbor and transmit disease
• All animals (including humans) have similar needs – food, water, shelter, and appropriate social and physical environments
• Our pets rely upon us to provide for all of the their needs
• Backyards and Schoolyards for Wildlife can be created to develop wildlife-friendly areas.
Kids for Critters Clubs
Children participate in activities at their school throughout the school year. Children learn that one individual can make a difference, and working together we can change the world.
This program is especially important because the members of the club become agents of change within their schools. Kids listen to other kids. The Kids for Critters model presents being kind to animals as fun and “cool.”
Staff led activities at Kids for Critters Clubs, providing direction and motivation to the kids as they complete activities related to animal issues. Kids have been involved in making posters to hang in their schools to promote proper pet care, collecting used towels and blankets for the Michigan Humane Society, making and selling dog biscuits and kitty herb pots, and preparing for National Tag Day and Be Kind to Animals Week. Individual schools have done an assortment of other activities including creating Pet Care brochures, writing skits and making presentations to younger children in their schools.
The Kids for Critters club engages children in three areas:
• Personal Choices – making choices for a softer footprint.
• Helping our Community – improving our community for all living creatures.
• Helping the World – Celebrating and saving our earth’s biodiversity.
Kids for Critters have several different messages to impart on others:
• Pet Care – Kids for Critters teach what it means to be a responsible pet owner, including providing proper care and love for an animal’s entire life.
• Humans and Other Animals – Kids can encourage other kids to investigate and question how animals are used in entertainment, including circuses, rodeos and television. These activities may be fun for some people, but they are definitely not fun for the animals.
• We Can Make A Difference – Children get involved in activities to help animals – not only in their homes, but also in their communities. Kids can help animal shelters with activities such as collecting towels, creating cat toys or making dog biscuits. They can also help animals at home by creating backyards for wildlife.
Kids for Critters sessions include City Critters, Zoo to the Rescue, Four-Legged Family Members and Helping People Help Animals.
Animal Peace Corps
An adult group of volunteers is being developed to provide the manpower for projects that assist animals. These projects may include building flight cages for rehabilitating birds, restoration of native habitats, or assisting wildlife sanctuaries. The Animal Peace Corps helps animals while providing individuals within our community a meaningful way to get involved. There are efforts in development both locally and abroad. The Animal Peace Corps program will be created in collaboration with the Center for Zoo Animal Welfare.
Humane messages are an integral part of all teacher workshops offered by Zoo staff. All education lessons are aligned with the Michigan Standards in the Grade Level Content Expectations. The Education Division participates at a variety of professional development opportunities for teachers. The importance of humane education is integrated into all programs.
Several important issues are discussed with teachers so they understand and can have an impact with their students, including:
• The far-reaching effects our daily choices can have on the Earth and its inhabitants
• The opportunities for dissection alternatives in the classroom
• The problem of animal exploitation in entertainment, including circuses, rodeos and television
• The importance of responsible pet choice and care
• The documented cycle of violence
• The importance of spending time in nature
A number of Humane Partners will be working with the Society. Additionally, many other teachers have been presented the issues on conservation and humane education and have been provided with background resources to utilize in their classrooms.
The Head Start connection enables us to reach an important underserved audience. Through our unique Zoo School, teachers learn about contemporary animal and environmental issues. After completing this five-session program, the teachers receive a Discovery Kit which contains animal-themed resources to use in the classroom, including books, puppets, models, DVDs, etc. The teachers work with both children and their parents to dispel myths and misconceptions about common animals as well as encourage positive attitudes towards all creatures that share our planet.
As part of the Discovery Kit, classrooms receive a pet care kit which includes both a dog and cat puppet and the items that they need for proper care: collar, leash, bowls, brush and toy. The kit also has a Pet Care checklist for use when children have their turn to “take the classroom pet” home.
We have also begun working with Head Start parents in a new program, entitled The Zoo and You. In this program, the parent delegates learn about important issues and become an “agent of change” at their facilities. The feedback from parents has been extremely positive as they feel empowered with their new information and motivated to make a difference for their children and neighborhoods.