Cayuga 5th graders host Pet Expo to educate their community


What did they care about?

Like many children, Pam Kieffer’s 5th graders were concerned about the fact that many dogs and cats were living in shelters or on the street. They wanted to know what they could to do to make sure the pets in our community were happy, healthy and safely cared for.  Before they could figure out how to make a difference their questions led them to understand the complexity of the root causes.

What did the students learn?

Students began researching with a burning question,”Why would an owner abandon their pet?” They learned that some owners can no longer care for their pets because of the high cost of healthcare, food, and shelter. Sometimes, owners must move to places where pets are not allowed. And some owners lack skills to properly train their pet, become frustrated, and give it up for adoption.

These can seem like big issues to tackle, but they began to read books, articles and online resources to find resources to address these challenges locally, nationally and globally.  When they hosted a visit from Pennsylvania SPCA they learned that they were not alone in caring about these issues. A visit to the PSPCA shelter gave them first-hand insight into how important it is to be part of the solution. This part of their learning was the most heartwarming but also the most difficult. The students saw the wonderful care these animals were receiving but also realized the immensity of the problem.  

But they came away even more determined to make a difference in their own community with outreach and education. 

What did they do about the issue?

In the spring, the 5th graders decided to host a “Pet Expo” and invite the school community into the classroom to learn about ways to keep pets happy, healthy, and safe. The students’ mission was to educate their community about pet ownership, including the best ways to adopt a new pet, how to care for pets, and ways to make the expense more affordable. The students wanted to become advocates for these animals and help them however possible. They brainstormed ways to educate their family, friends, and neighbors about homeless animals, the need for more volunteers and support groups for homeless animals. 

Many of the students were able to participate in the PSPCA Cat Tales program over the summer–to keep up their reading and spend time with the cats they cared about.  Aside from a great summer activity, what is the lasting change from a project like this? These students have realized that they are capable of making a change now as well as in the future. Their Pet Expo was widely praised by all who attended and students were eager to discuss everything they had learned. Seeing the impact they have made on their community with discussions that continue to evolve has shown the students that they are powerful, resourceful, and capable of making changes now.