September 27, 2012


Posted in REA Releases tagged , , at 2:51 am by ranchoencinitasacademy


Monthly outings to animal shelter engage students in experiential learning with a curriculum that ties in with the new Common Core State Standards

September 25, 2012 – Encinitas, CA – 7th and 8th graders at Rancho Encinitas Academy (REA) will participate in a monthly service-learning project at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society where they will learn the importance of proper care and compassion toward the animals in the shelter.  “Our program aims to establish a sense of responsibility in the students and foster respect, kindness, and empathy towards animals and other humans,” says Lizzie Hart, education director at Rancho Coastal Humane Society.

REA middle school teacher, Amy Becker, implemented the program last year after her class read Bruce Cameron’s, A Dog’s Purpose.  “Many of the kids loved animals and were incredibly touched by the book so I thought they would be invested in this type of work,” Becker says.  After witnessing how engaged the students were in the learning process, Becker chose to continue the project for the new school year.  “Our volunteer work was such a success, both for the kids and the shelter, that we are continuing this school year and will go once every few weeks for an hour of work,” she adds.

Based on the ideas of educational theorist John Dewey, learning by serving has been around for decades but is just now becoming a growing trend in schools.  Learning by doing, or service-learning, is a teaching strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection.  Consequently, the learning experience is an enriched process whereby students internalize civic responsibility and become an integral part of strengthening their community.  According to National Louis University’s Virginia Jagla, Ph.D., associate professor in the National College of Education, the effectiveness of service-learning has never been greater, particularly with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards.  “Service-learning gives students a sense of well-being and a sense of actually accomplishing something instead of just learning it for a test,” Jagla says.  The collected work, Keeping Middle Schools Successful, includes a chapter by Jagla titled Service-Learning Linked to Standards for a Successful Middle School Experience.   In her chapter she explains how many educators feel pressured to cover vast amounts of curriculum in their lessons.  However, the new Common Core encourages deeper understanding in scope rather than the “mile wide and inch deep” method of the old standards.  “The Common Core’s emphasis on creativity and 21st century learning skills fit neatly with service-learning’s focus,” Jagla says.

So far this year, the REA students have had the opportunity to tour the shelter and learn what they will be expected to do during their hour of service.  Tasks will include helping with laundry, washing the animal dishes, cleaning out the bunny cages, helping to maintain the llama/miniature horse stalls and participating in promotional events.  “After 45 minutes of work, the kids are able to give the cats and dogs about 15 minutes of TLC they so desperately desire,” Becker says.  She goes on to explain that the Common Core State Standards recognize the importance of reading certain books that engage students and allow them to make choices.  Because the standards are building blocks for successful classrooms, they intentionally do not offer a specific reading list, thereby allowing more freedom and creativity on the part of the teacher.

According to Hart, students participating in the program become aware of the numerous responsibilities associated with caring for companion animals.  “Ultimately, we hope the students participating in the program today will become problem solvers, not problem makers, and play a vital role in making this world a better place,”  Hart says.

 About Rancho Encinitas Academy

Since 1995, Rancho Encinitas Academy (REA) has prepared students for high school in a child-focused, nurturing environment that encourages knowledge, creativity, self-reliance and fosters organizational skills.  REA serves students from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade.  For more information call (760) 942-2011 or visit   

About Rancho Coastal Humane Society

Rancho Coastal Humane Society (RCHS) was formed in 1960 by a group of hardworking volunteers, led by animal lover Maria K. Lloyd. The goal was and continues to be to care for the homeless animal population of San Diego County and to educate the public about pet over-population and responsible companion animal care.


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