Activity time: 23 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Live animals and appropriate paraphernalia (leash, water bowl, treats, cage)
Preparation for Activity
- Consult with your religious educator to determine whether any of the children have animal allergies or extreme fears. Choose animal guests and arrange the meeting space carefully, so every child will be safe and comfortable. If needed, skip this activity and use Alternate Activity 3, Role Play.
- Recruit live animal visitors. Possibilities include pets from your congregation, visitors from a local animal education agency, service dogs, or animals from a local shelter or wildlife rehabilitation center. Kittens or puppies will be especially popular with this age group. Be sure to bring in animals that are socialized and used to being handled. If you bring in multiple animals, be sure they will get along with one another.
- Make sure you will have extra adult supervision-at least one additional adult for each animal visitor!
Description of Activity
Gather participants in a seated circle. Ask participants what they know about how one should behave around your animal visitor(s). Establish firm guidelines based on the species you will visit with. Guidelines should include:
- Treat the animals kindly and gently.
- Do not try to force the animal to do something.
- Watch the animal for its communication cues that show what it likes and doesn't like. (Name specific cues, such as an arched back with fur raised means a cat is threatened.)
- Do not crowd the animals.
- Anyone who treats the animal unkindly will be removed from the activity.
Based on the size of your group and the species and numbers of animal visitors, you might allow the children to play with the animals in an informal, unstructured way, or structure the visit: For example, select one child at a time to interact with the animal. If your group is large, form two smaller groups and have one group observe the animals and draw pictures of them while the other group interacts with the animals. Have the groups switch half-way through your time.
Before meeting each animal visitor, ask the children what they know or expect about how this animal will communicate.
As the children interact with the animals, ask questions like:
- What do you suppose the animal is communicating to you right now?
- Have you noticed anything the animal likes or dislikes?
- Do you suppose the animal is scared? How can you tell?
- How could we make that animal more comfortable right now?
Including All Participants
Find out whether any of the children are allergic to particular animals. If so, find a different species of animal visitor or choose an alternate activity.