years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Animals Asia’s tail-wagging teachers join in English Festival 2007
16 Apr 2007
One group of teachers will be working extra hard this spring, but at least they’ll get lots of hugs from their students. With wagging tails and warm hearts, Hong Kong’s much-loved Professor Paws dogs will be out in force over the next few weeks.
As part of the English Festival 2007 staged by the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR), the Professor Paws Pet Cadet English Learning Programme, organised by Animals Asia, will visit local primary schools with native English speakers and registered animal-therapy dogs for special “hands on” English lessons to teach students about companion animals, while improving their English-language skills.
Professor Paws was one of just four projects chosen from among almost 30 applicants to participate in the festival. More than 400 primary 4-5 students from 10 schools around Hong Kong will benefit from the special programme, which starts on Wednesday (April 18) and runs for six weeks. The programme is so popular that 50 other schools wanted to be included, but missed out.
Animals Asia’s Education Director Anneleise Smillie, who founded and runs Professor Paws, says that through the programme, children learn to overcome their fear of dogs, learn safety around dogs and learn compassion for animals. An added bonus is that the children get to hone their English-speaking skills with a native speaker in a fun environment.
Through the programme, Ms Smillie sees first-hand the benefits that interaction with dogs bring to children – and the benefits are evident almost immediately.
She says that often the children – many of whom live in public housing estates – have never even had the chance to touch a dog before their first Professor Paws class.
“Many of the children are terrified, not because they have had a bad experience with dogs in the past, but because they have simply had no experience of dogs, so it’s a fear of the unknown. Or often the children’s parents have instilled this fear in them, telling them not to touch dogs because they are dirty and dangerous.”
But Ms Smillie says that usually by the third lesson, the fear is gone. “By then, all the children want to pat and hug the dogs. The change we're seeing in a short space of time is remarkable,” she says. “With gentle encouragement the children are soon clamouring to feed their ‘Professor’ and begging their teachers to have dogs in every lesson!” She says some children even cry when they have to say goodbye to their furry Professor.
Ms Smillie says the fact that the children have overcome their fears of the dog, is empowering in itself. Teachers often say that the students have more confidence to speak in English and sometimes, because they are having such fun, even forget that they are actually speaking in English.
“Research has shown that dogs can be instrumental in improving the learning skills of a wide variety of children. Close interaction with dogs is proven to increase self-confidence and pro-social behaviour among students, while encouraging the development of compassion,” Ms Smillie says.
Each child in the Professor Paws programme will receive a T-shirt, the book, “The Crazy Adventures of Patch and Sam”, and a Pet Cadet wrist-band.
Building on the widespread success of Dr. Dog, Animals Asia launched its Professor Paws Pet Cadet programme in Hong Kong in October 2004.
SCOLAR launched the English Festival in 2005 to raise students and the public’s interest in learning and use of English by creating a motivating English-speaking environment outside the classroom through diversified activities.