PCF Sparkletots @Pioneer 662B and the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) forged a partnership to create innovative learning experiences for young children and raise awareness of responsible pet ownership.
Most, if not all children, have a fondness for animals and at times, may request to own a pet. However, keeping a pet is a huge responsibility. At a young age, it may be difficult for children to understand that pets are living things and require certain needs. To help raise awareness of responsible pet ownership in preschoolers, PCF Sparkletots @Pioneer 662B and the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) teamed up together to roll out an innovative project titled “Be a Considerate Pet Owner”.
IT ALL BEGAN WITH START SMALL DREAM BIG
Ms Poh Choo Chong, Executive Manager of AVA's Community Outreach Department and Communications & Corporate Relations Group, shared that this fantastic collaboration, which began at the Start Small Dream Big (SSBD) briefing in 2017. The SSDB movement is initiated by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). It aims to create authentic platforms for children to innovate, problem-solve and tap their unique strengths to help others and contribute to social causes. AVA took part in SSBD to raise awareness about responsible pet ownership and encourage preschoolers to support the safeguarding of animal welfare in Singapore in their own little ways.
Mdm Geeta Singh, Principal of PCF Sparkletots @Pioneer 662B saw potential in partnering AVA as the children in her centre were extremely fond of animals. Mdm Geetha and her team of early childhood educators also shared a passion for supporting animal welfare. They came across numerous articles on pet negligence and wanted to inculcate values on responsible pet ownership to the children in their kindergarten.
INSPIRING RABBIT AMBASSADORS
As part of their public education efforts, AVA runs a ‘Responsible Pet Ownership Programme’ which includes programmes for the preschool sector. One of the programmes targeted at preschoolers (5 and 6 year olds) is ‘Show & Tell – Pets and their needs’. Through this show and tell session, AVA aims to educate preschoolers on the complex needs of a pet and that pets are not toys, but a lifetime of commitment.
Mdm Geeta’s centre reached out to AVA to conduct a Show & Tell session for the children. AVA brought along two rabbit ambassadors, Anna and Kristoff, for the session. Both rabbit ambassadors were former pets given up by their previous owners. The children were given the opportunity to interact with the rabbit ambassadors. They were also encouraged to think about ways that they can care for abandoned pets. AVA also provided teaching and learning resources to the kindergarten, such as their ‘Animal and our Community’ booklets. These resources supported the early childhood educators in reinforcing the responsible pet ownership messages with the children through hands on activities.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE…
Seeing the enthusiasm of the children in helping animals, Mdm Geetha’s centre further worked with AVA to create more opportunities for the children to help abandoned animals. They eventually decided to work with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), one of AVA’s 13 pet rehoming partners. The children created pet toys using recycled materials for the animals awaiting new homes at the SPCA.
The kindergarten organised a parent-child toy making workshop so that parents and even grandparents could play a part in supporting the children’s endeavours. Mdm Geeta Singh shared that at PCF Sparkletots, parents are seen as partners in a child’s development, and it is therefore important to involve parents in their child’s learning journey. During the toy making workshop, the children and their parents/ grandparents made a variety of pet toys. They included:
- Dog chew toys made from old socks and tennis balls
- Rabbit toys made of hay, twine and recycled toilet rolls
- Large cat scratching posts using large cardboard cartons
Creating the pet toys was not easy. Mdm Geeta and her early childhood educators were heartened to see the children persevering through the tasks together with their parents and grandparents. This bonding activity, all for a good cause, was thoroughly enjoyed by the children and adults involved.
"Working together with my grandchild in making the pet toys definitely helped to develop closer bond between us. It was a fun and enriching experience,” said Mdm Khoo Poh Seoh, grandmother of one of the preschoolers.
Many were impressed with the meaningful use of recycled materials in the project as it provided the children an avenue to flex their creativity in eco-friendly ways. “The children were able to think out of the box by using unused scrap waste to make beautiful fun toys for the animals,” shared Mdm Li Guiru another grandmother who participated in the workshop.
Ms Chen Shing May, Chairman of the Parent Support Group, felt that this project was educational for the children. "Through this project, the children not only learnt how to be responsible pet owners, but also developed empathy and care towards animals," she elaborated.
The children’s creations were subsequently presented to SPCA for the animals to use. There was a great sense of achievement amongst the children and their families when they saw pictures of the animals at SPCA using the toys they had made. “Seeing the photo of a cat at SPCA lazing on our handmade cat scratcher comfortably gave me a great sense of satisfaction!” chimed Mr Chia Peng Hwee, one of the fathers on board the project.
The success of this project would not have been possible without the support of the partnering agencies. During the implementation, Mdm Geetha and her educators faced challenges in obtaining the necessary materials. As the children would like to make a large number of pet toys, they needed to pool together sufficient recycled materials, including more than 100 tennis balls and long socks, as well as large clean cardboard cartons. Mdm Geeta Singh was grateful to have the support from People's Association, Jurong West Secondary School Parent Support Group and National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) Fairprice in the collection of the various items.
INSPIRING OTHERS TO GIVE BACK TO COMMUNITY
The children's efforts were shared with other early childhood educators and children at the PCF Conference 2017 as well as on ECDA’s SSDB platforms. The children even did a live demonstration of how to create some of the pet toys at the PCF Conference. Many educators felt that the project was unique and well-coordinated. The activities were age-appropriate and provided opportunities for the preschoolers to learn about responsible pet ownership and recycling.
Moving forward, Mdm Geeta Singh has plans to incorporate this project in their centre’s curriculum as it encourages children to become active and responsible citizens from a young age. She also encourages other preschools to embark on similar community partnership projects as it provides meaningful context for the children’s learning. The children not only nurtured a sense of care and respect for the animals, they also learnt more about the people and spaces in their community. More importantly, “The children develop confidence as they learn that their contributions can make a difference to the world around them!” shares Mdm Geeta.
LEARN TO MAKE YOUR OWN PET TOYS!
Let the children from PCF Sparkletots @Pioneer 662B share with you steps on how to make pet toys from recycled materials!
Step 1: Stuff the tennis balls into the long socks. Tie a knot at the bottom of the sock.
Step 2: Cut the socks lengthwise in three parts.
Step 3: Braid the parts and tie another know at the end of the braid.
Step 1: Tie the hay in a bunch using twine.
Step 2: Cut a slit at the centre of the toilet roll.
Step 3: Pass the twine tied hay through the twine and pull the twine through the tissue roll.
Cat Scratching Post
Step 1: Cut the cartons into long strips of cardboard
Step 2: Roll the large strips of cardboard to form a huge scratching post.