New Zoocheck program makes learning wild

Learning may get a bit wild in Scarborough schools this year.

Zoocheck Canada’s new educational Keep it Wild! workshops are designed to teach elementary students the importance of environmental sustainability and about the wild animals currently in captivity all across the globe.

“The workshops are very curriculum linked. In Grade 1, for example, they’re learning that living things all have basic needs, that living things are important and must be treated with care and respect,” said Keep it Wild! creator Nadja Lubiw-Hazard. “What we do is bring in activities, science experiments and discussions on different things the students can do to learn about that. We tie in the science of animals with compassion and advocacy.”

Lubiw-Hazard piloted the program in a few Toronto schools last year. She engages the children in a half-day workshop where they form small groups that travel to different activity centres. These centres are designed to teach the children about a particular animal species.

Lubiw-Hazard then introduces the children to a real wild animal in captivity and the children share what they believe should be done about the situation.

“It is important for kids to develop their own set of beliefs and think critically about things,” Lubiw-Hazard said. “I think that’s what makes them develop their morals and their ethics, by questioning things at a deeper level. You can’t start too young with things like that.”

Keep it Wild! is a subsidiary of Zoocheck Canada, an organization developed to protect against the cruelty and captivity of wild animals. Rob Laidlaw, Zoocheck’s executive director, said he’s a big booster of Lubiw-Hazard’s program.

“There is nothing like it,” Laidlaw said. “There are certainly programs that deal with conservation and environment issues, and there are some where humane societies have come into schools and they talk about dog and cat care. But we’re getting students to think critically of broader issues.”

Once the program takes off, Lubiw-Hazard will be running the workshops at a fee of $175. Parent council money could provide the funding, she said, used as if the workshop were a field trip.

“We feel that once this gains a toehold that it’ll spread,” Laidlaw said. “It won’t be incredibly rapid because these things never are but we feel it should be successful. From everything we’ve heard anecdotally, it seems that this type of program is going to be welcomed in schools.”

Lubiw-Hazard stressed the importance of such a program in the classroom.

“We have to learn about the animal before we can learn about how to be kind to it and what we can do for it.”

Wild Animals in Captivity: The Quiz

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