SPCA’s vision is to provide engaging educational resources for teaching and learning about animals and animal welfare.

These are designed to encourage exploration and development of knowledge, skills, and understandings needed to create feelings of empathy, compassion, respect and justice for the lives of all living things.

SPCA’s education programme is designed to help teachers integrate Animal Welfare Education into their classroom programme, whilst offering tools and strategies to enhance existing classroom teaching and learning, and fulfil New Zealand Curriculum achievement objectives in all learning areas. This approach is consistent with the New Zealand Curriculum vision of young people as creative, energetic, enterprising young people who actively participate in and contribute to the future well-being of New Zealand (not passive recipients of knowledge).

Animal welfare education is about the fostering of respect, understanding, compassion and responsibility towards animals. It is an exploration of how we share the world with other living beings and the responsibilities we have in ensuring their well being.

Given the prevalence of violence in society today, it is more crucial than ever to instil compassion, empathy and tolerance in young people. Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between violent acts towards animals and people. Additionally, research in animal welfare education suggests that children’s compassion toward animals is related to their empathy toward humans.

SPCA’s education programme promotes essential character-building qualities such as empathy, kindness, respect for others and personal responsibility as well as engaging students’ in core curriculum subject learning through a real-life meaningful context. As children develop empathy (the ability to assume the feelings and perspective of other humans and animals), they begin to understand concepts such as respect, cooperation, sharing, fairness and patience.

SPCA’s education materials were designed to integrate into the New Zealand Curriculum by experienced, New Zealand trained teachers.

SPCA’s education materials focus on a variety of animal welfare concepts and provide teachers with the tools to incorporate these topics into their daily classroom programme.

The learning experiences allow students to gain knowledge and understanding of animals through interactive, project based learning. Great importance is placed on the inquiry process and critical thinking as well as developing leadership skills to put compassion into action. SPCA’s education materials have been piloted by classroom teachers throughout Auckland and evaluated by New Zealand Council for Educational Research. This approach has enabled us to make informed, evidence based decisions throughout our programme’s development.

The ultimate learning experience occurs when home and school work in partnership - when teaching and learning is supported, reinforced and encouraged at home, connections are more easily made and positive changes can occur. Our SPCA’s Kids Portal is a wonderful resource for parents and whānau to be able to support their children’s learning journey.

How can you, your whānau and animals support your child’s empathetic development?

There is a lot of advice and research out there that suggest companion animals (pets) are a great way to teach children compassion and responsibility. However, the just the presence of animals in a home does not automatically make children more empathetic.

Positive child-animal relationships can develop empathy, generosity, compassion, helpfulness, care and responsibility. Skills that we believe most parents would want their child to have, and society wishes of all its citizens.