Elizabeth Ormerod (SCAS Chair), March 2021
Teaching children about animal welfare and preventive medicine is very important, and it should be a core curriculum subject. During the 28 years that we had a companion animal practice, I gave lessons in our local schools at least once a year. Children enjoyed the topics, and I found school visits really uplifting, helping to counteract the stresses of practice. I was therefore delighted to be asked to provide a Zoom lesson for a Primary school recently, as part of British Science Week (March 5-14).
My approach is to deliver lessons as interactive workshops. The feedback allows me to identify areas where knowledge needs to be strengthened. Children respond well to animal-related education, pay keen attention, and become very engaged. Hyperactive and disruptive pupils become calm and focused, whilst shy, quiet children become involved and eager to participate. Teachers have often expressed surprise at how the children behave during these lessons. The effects are seen in children from kindergarten through to 6th Form. During the years that I taught in prisons, to a Lifers’ Group and in a Special Unit for men who were too volatile and disruptive to be kept in mainstream prisons, a similar but more marked effect was witnessed. Men, who would normally ignore others or be aggressive, calmly co-operated with each other in the presence of animals. Colleagues working in criminal asylums and prisons in North America have reported similar behaviours.
One of my favourite workshops is about keeping safe. Veterinarians are concerned about public health. Traditionally this has involved us in ensuring food safety; in the development of pharmaceuticals for animals and people; and in applying our knowledge to prevent and address outbreaks of zoonotic diseases. However, we can also apply our veterinary knowledge to teach animal welfare and comparative health and safety. The benefits to society would be far reaching.
If you would like to know more about the work of the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS), please visit our website at www.scas.org.uk