Teaching Youth about Compassion: NSHA’s Humane Education Program Takes Off

This summer NSHA had two amazing programs to teach Nantucket (and visiting) youth the importance of compassion towards animals.

Our “Read to Me . . . ow” program offered youth ages 5-9 who wanted to volunteer at the shelter the opportunity to spend time with the cats while simultaneously learning about kindness towards animals. In order to give depth to their volunteer experience, the “Read to Me . . . Ow” program asked the volunteers to spend part of their hour reading to the cats and kittens in the communal cat room and then to help tidy up the shelter. Youth read books like “Sophie the Shelter Cat” and “The Bravest Cat! The True Story of Scarlett” then socialized the cats and rabbits, swept the floor, cleaned litter boxes, and weeded the catio. One young reader joined the program in order to become more comfortable around animals. Her mom saw this program as a low-risk/go-at-your-own-pace way to learn how to interact with animals. By the end of the summer, they’d adopted one of our six kittens! We had 15 youth participate in this program.

In August, NSHA’s Humane Education collaboration with Nantucket’s summer camps  (The HEART—Humane Education in Art—Project) culminated in an art show at the Atheneum’s Children’s Library. Youth from 4 summer camps—the Seafari Girls, ACKVenture, Maria Mitchell, and the Murray Camp—interpreted a compassionate theme onto canvas. Our Humane Education intern, Kara Falk, worked with camp counselors on the themes for each age group. Campers chose from age-appropriate humane topics that included “Adopt Don’t Shop,” “Plastics in the Sea,” “Kindness to Animals,” and “Dogs in Hot Cars.” Over 150 art works were displayed at the Weezie Library. “HEART gives children of all ages a chance to think with compassion about the animals in their lives and then to create a piece of art that shares this compassionate outlook with others,” explains Susan Richards, NSHA’s Humane Education Coordinator. Dina Warren, who attended the show at the library, was impressed with what the artists accomplished: “I’m proud of all of the children’s thoughts about animals.They give me hope for the future!”

These pilot projects for NSHA’s Humane Ed program will be repeated—and expanded—in the summer of 2016. Richards points out that “a compassionate and thoughtful lifestyle begins early, with very young children. We need to give our children the knowledge, tools, and motivation to act with kindness in a world that we share with such a wide variety of beings.”

These programs were free of charge and were funded by a grant from the Nantucket Golf Club Foundation. 

“Read to Me . . . Ow” participant reads to one of our kittens.
“Read to Me . . . Ow” participants weed the catio.
Magdalena, HEART participant, and her art.
HEART participant art work.