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By Katie Amrhein, Community Outreach Educator

In the middle of a PAWS education program, an 8-year-old boy walked up to me, reached into his pocket, pulled out a $10 bill, and quietly said, “I want to give this to PAWS to help the animals.” This moment, and countless others like it when children are moved to take action to help animals, is the reason I teach. A better world for animals and people starts today, with you and me, and carries into tomorrow, with the next generation of youth.

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Frances Moore Lappé once said, “Every choice we make can be a celebration of the world we want.” When a child makes a choice that celebrates a better world for animals, they are doing so from a place of empathy and compassion. In order to feel driven to help animals, children first need to learn about, understand, and feel connected to animals through positive relationships and interactions. And so, through games, art, stories, sharing, and problem-solving, I teach.

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I teach children that crows are incredibly intelligent. I teach children how to understand the ways dogs communicate with us through their bodies. I teach children that raccoons have adaptations that help them survive in our ever-changing urban ecosystems. I teach children what it means to be a responsible pet guardian. I teach children that cows have the same basic needs as rabbits.

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I teach children that each and every one of their actions, everything from recycling to talking to their parents about getting a microchip for their cat, has an impact, and they can choose actions that celebrate a better world for animals. I teach children to care, not by forcing it upon them, but by providing space for them to connect to animals and choose to care.

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And so, when an 8-year-old boy walks up to me and says that he wants to donate $10 to help the animals at PAWS, I know that he has learned that animals deserve a better world, and that starts today, with you and me, and carries into tomorrow, with him.

PAWS is people helping animals. The people that will be helping animals tomorrow are the youth of today. And so, I teach.

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