Mini Unit: Building Empathy

Last updated: January 24, 2013

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A girl holding a white lamb and giving it a kiss

Technology Level: Tech Enhanced.

Audience: Ages 9-13

Duration: 8 lessons (with the last being optional)

Prior knowledge/skills of teacher and students

Any prior knowledge required either by the teacher or students is outlined in each individual lesson plan.

Objective:

Underpinning this Mini Unit is the recognition that animal abuse is a symptom of a far bigger problem of violence in society. Children who are victims of abuse often express their anger and frustration by exhibiting cruel behaviour towards animals or their peers, and often grow up to be abusive role models to their own children.

Understanding animals

This unit of work helps teach students about a dog’s dietary needs, grooming, training methods, games, body language and behaviour to build skills necessary to care for dogs and other animals appropriately. As a result of these lessons, students begin to recognise that animals and humans have similar needs and feelings such as hunger, thirst, fear, anxiety and contentment. We ask students to consider how their behaviour can make a particular animal “feel”.

Changing behaviour

Building on teaching an understanding of animals’ feelings and needs, this unit of work also aims to assist students to show empathetic behaviour towards other people and animals. A number of studies have suggested that positive interactions with animals can be a bridge to improved interactions with humans.

We believe this unit of work will not only have a positive impact on a student’s own pet and their interactions with immediate peers, but will also inspire long-term responsible and caring behaviour towards animals.

Learn more about the link between animal abuse and violence – visit our “Tested on Animals” campaign page: http://www.rspcaqld.org.au/campaigns/testedonanimals/

Unit Overview:

Unit Lessons
Lesson Title Objective
1. Introduction Through whole class discussions the students will develop a class charter that will be a guideline for the students, to help our animals be healthy and happy at all times. Students will create a kindness web for another class member to help them realise that all humans are special, just in different ways.
2. Dog Portraits Students will respond to visual stimuli of dogs expressing different emotions. Children will recognise that animals have feelings similar to humans and discover how they express their feelings through different body language. Children will explore how to approach and greet dogs safely. Students will explore different techniques for creating a pet portrait. They will use captions to describe the emotions, or actions shown by the animals in the portrait.
3. Being Kind to Bob Through discussion and hands on activities, students will develop an understanding of how to be a responsible pet owner. Through dramatisation children will explore the idea that animals have feelings.
4. Animal Cruelty Through whole class and small group discussions students will investigate responsible pet ownership and animal cruelty. Students will develop an understanding of why and how we should care for and have compassion for animals and people. Students will voice their opinions regarding various animal welfare issues and give reasoning for these opinions.
5 & 6 Charlotte’s Web Charlotte’s Web is a humorous and timeless story about the friendship between a pig named Wilbur and his barnyard friend, a spider called Charlotte. Students will watch the movie and then discuss the qualities of friendships and why they are important to us. Students will explore how animals can be friends to humans and how they communicate with people. Through discussions students will explore how animals communicate with humans. The movie will be watched in approximately 2 x 45 minute sessions leaving approximately 15 minutes at the end of each session to have class discussions.
7. Class Charter Through whole class discussions the students will develop a class charter that will be a guideline for the students, to help our animals be healthy and happy at all times. Students will create a kindness web for another class member to help them realise that all humans are special, just in different ways.
8. Shelter Tour The students will be able to experience first-hand, the work of the RSPCA. Students will visit the RSPCA, exploring the different areas of wildlife, vets, inspectors, training, volunteers and the everyday running and caring for the animals in our care.

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