The Human-Animal Bond
- Learn about different kinds of feelings.
- Learn new vocabulary words associated with feelings.
- Recognize how animals have feelings, too.
- Develop the ability to empathize and be responsible for the effect of our actions and words on other’s feelings.
- Understand how empathy helps us to be kinder to animals and people.
Empathy is a skill essential for positive social behaviour. Talking about pets is a good starting point to teach this concept.
Curriculum Connection: Alberta Education Program of Studies
Health and Life Skills
Relationship choices – understanding and expressing feelings
- Demonstrate knowledge of different kinds of feelings and a vocabulary of feeling words; e.g., happiness, excitement.
- Recognize and demonstrate various ways to express feelings e.g verbal and nonverbal.
- Identify positive and negative feelings associated with stress/change.
- Become aware that the safe expression of feelings is healthy.
- Recognize the effects of sharing positive feelings on self and others; e.g., express appreciation to self and others.
Adapted with permission from Operation Outreach USA
In this activity ask the students to name as many feelings as they can think of. Record them on chart paper: happy, sad, angry, surprised, proud, etc. Encourage students to volunteer examples of when they may have felt a particular feeling.
- Read these situations, one at a time, to the children. Follow the same procedures
for each story. You may wish to use illustrations of each situation.
- Situation 1: Bill came home from school. He came in the door. No one was there. He felt ____________.
- Situation 2: Denise went over to Mary’s house to play. Mary was playing with Shakita. Denise felt ____________.
- Situation 3: Kevin hit a home run. He felt ____________.
- Situation 4: Jamal came home early. He saw a big chocolate cake. He felt____________.
- Situation 5: Michelle broke her favorite toy. She felt _____________.
- Situation 6: Tony’s mother came home with a new baby sister. Tony felt____________.
- Discuss, as a class, the possible answers to each situation. There is more than one response to each situation.
- Have students brainstorm and expand upon each situation to describe “what happened next?”
- Have the children illustrate each situation as they choose.
- Put each illustrated page together with a printed copy of the situational story
so each child has a book to take home at the end of this activity.
make a class "big book" with everyone's ideas.
use the entire activity to create a large bulletin board display on feelings.
- As a follow-up activity have students create their own situational stories.
- Use drawings of themselves and/or magazine pictures which convey certain feelings focusing on facial expressions and body language. Create a mural or a book with different feelings illustrate section or page. This could be a group or an individual activity.
Pets have Feelings, too
Brainstorm things that make us happy or sad. Then talk about whether pets would feel the same way. Then discuss how do you feel if your pet is happy or sad? Can you understand how they are feeling?
Introduce the concept of empathy, which is the ability to understand and identify with another person or animal’s feelings or difficulties.
Empathy is a difficult concept for children to grasp, but they can understand empathy through examples. There are numerous instances during the day when the opportunity arises to ask students how they think another person is feeling and if they can’t feel the same way. Modeling empathetic behaviour will help students understand the concept better.
Ask students to think of time when a person they know was having a hard time and they could really imagine how that person was feeling. Could they do the same for an animal, for example seeing a lost animal and imagining how confused and scared they must be?
Talk about the meaning of the expressions:
- To put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
- To walk a mile in their shoes.
What do these mean? How can having empathy make us kinder? For example, if we can imagine what it feels like when someone teases us, are we less likely to tease a person or pet?
Discussion Questions for Rusty and Raymond:
- Do you think what Rusty’s owner did was responsible or irresponsible? Why?
- What should Rusty’s owners have done instead?
- How do you feel about the Johnsons letting Rusty go?
- What do you think happened to Rusty in the two weeks he was on his own?
- What do you think Rusty’s life would have been like if Raymond hadn’t rescued him?
- Do you think the Johnsons should get another pet? Why or why not?
- Who do you think is the responsible pet owner in this story? Why?
- What do you think about what Raymond’s mom said about Rusty being let go?
- Have any of you ever been lost? Hw did you feel? Can you empathize with Rusty? How do you think he felt being abandoned or left?
- Put yourself in Rusty’s shoes ( or paws) for a moment and think about the feelings he might have had when he was abandoned.
- Have any of you ever lost a pet? How did you feel?
- Can you empathize with Raymond? How do you think Raymond felt when he learned Rusty was abandoned?
Have students brainstorm vocabulary for how Rusty felt.
Discussion Questions for Greg’s Dilemma:
- Was Greg acting responsibly when he left Jessa off her leash? Why or why not?
- Why do you think Greg let Jessa go?
- Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to impress your friends? What did you do?
- Can you empathize with Greg and understand what caused him to let Jessa off her leash?
- What should Greg have done instead?
- Because Greg was irresponsible, what happened to Jessa?
- Who misbehaved, Jessa or Greg?
- Have you ever been in a situation like Greg’s where if you told the truth, you might get in serious trouble? What did you do?
- What should Greg do?
- If he doesn’t tell the truth, what could happen to Jessa?
- If you were Greg, what would you do? Why?
- What do you think Jessa would want Greg to do?
- Greg acted irresponsibly, but he can fix the problem by taking responsibility for making a mistake. What is the responsible thing to do?
- How can empathizing with others make us kinder, more understanding people?
Brainstorm vocabulary for how Greg and Jessa each felt.
To end on a happier note, remind children that the Cochrane & Area Humane Society is here to help pets like Rusty and that we find homes for about 1,000 pets a year - all happy endings for those pets.
Additional Activity: Bird’s eye view
This is a further activity to learn empathy by experiencing the world from an animal’s viewpoint. Each student becomes an animal, for example, a mouse, elephant, etc. and wanders through classroom seeing it from animal’s viewpoint. Another approach would be to all pretend to be one animal, such as a mouse.
- Would the chairs and tables seem bigger?
- Would the room seem wider? Higher? Smaller?
- What might a mouse do in a classroom that you or I couldn’t do?
- Where could a mouse hide?
- What things might be scary to a mouse?
- What things would a mouse like?
- Do you think this classroom is a perfect place for a mouse? Why not?
Find, make or draw “homes” for one of the small animals like a mouse.