By: Sarah A. Neikam, Operations Manager

Though you can’t tell by the weather, summer is officially over as far as the school year is concerned. Children groaned and parents rejoiced all over Aiken County last week as schools opened their doors and teachers opened their lesson plans for the 2016-2017 school year.

This year, just like past years, kids will learn all the basics: reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history, social studies and social standings. They’ll attend art classes, music classes and participate in sports. Maybe somewhere in there they’ll find a subject or activity that brings them joy and it will lead them toward a future career goal.

If their passion is animals though, specifically pets, they probably won’t find a class offering lessons on pet care and responsibility. That’s where the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Humane & Character Education program steps in.

Educating children about the importance of animal welfare and teaching them compassion for animals offers a sustainable solution to problems like animal abuse, neglect and pet over-population through spay & neuter awareness.

Students participating in the program are presented with seven monthly lessons throughout the school year and have the opportunity to earn a completion certificate at the end of the school year.

This fantastic program has been teaching valuable lessons in Aiken County elementary schools for eleven years and is coordinated by our volunteer and outreach team with SPCA volunteers presenting the lessons in each classroom.

This year, we’ve had requests from more teachers than usual who would like to offer the program to their classrooms, and we need more volunteers to fulfill those requests. Won’t you consider joining this valuable team of volunteers?

While teaching experience is helpful, it is not required as all of the easy-to-follow lesson plans are provided. Supplies are also provided and volunteers are welcome to supplement the lessons with extra supplies or fun handouts for the students.

The lessons are designed to be fun and engaging for the students, and in some instances (with teacher permission) volunteers can bring their own well behaved pets to help demonstrate the lessons.

As a Humane Education volunteer, you will be assigned to a kindergarten through third grade classroom that you will visit once per month during the school year. During these visits, you will present lessons focusing on pet care, responsible pet ownership, respect for animals as well as humans, understanding wildlife, and dog safety.

The dates and times for these lessons are set by you and your assigned classroom teacher and most lessons require about an hour of lesson preparation, plus an hour of classroom teaching. All together, that’s about two hours of your time each month.

This program has been very well received by the students, teachers and administrators at each school and our volunteers overwhelmingly report their classroom experiences as positive and rewarding with a noted improvement in the students’ understanding of what responsible pet ownership involves.

Plus, there are the stories. Ask a child a question about their pets, or animals in general, and they are more than happy to share their tales of rescuing a dog from the side of the road, or a litter of kittens left by the back fence.

The lessons you teach are sure to stick with them as they continue their education, and will hopefully influence their decisions and actions in their future experiences with animals, and relationships with both pets and people.

Arthur Schopenhauer wrote “Compassion for animals is intimately associated with goodness of character.” You can be part of developing that compassionate character in today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders. Please join us!

To learn more, or to sign up, please visit; call 803-648-6863, ext. 2 or email [email protected].

Sarah Neikam is the Communications & Marketing Director for the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. She is an Aiken native and has been with the SPCA since 2012. Sarah lives in Graniteville with her husband, Tom, mother, Cheryl and three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna and Grady.

The SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare is a private, nonprofit, no kill animal shelter in Aiken, SC.  The SPCA also operates a local Thrift Store (“Where Shopping Saves Lives”),  a public, affordable Veterinary Care Center & a Dog Park.  It is our mission to improve the lives of companion animals by rehoming abused, abandoned, and neglected pets while fighting for their well-being through vigorous legislative efforts, humane education, and by offering affordable veterinary care for all.