Lessons and Presentations

Humane Education, using animals to teach compassionate and empathy, is an important part of any child’s learning experience. AWS’ Youth Program Coordinator offers a unique and interactive animal-based curriculum to teachers, homeschool groups and educational organizations. Lessons and presentations target three important educational components: literacy, social-emotional learning and animal advocacy.

Educators, to schedule a presentation or learn more about how we can bring our humane education curriculum to your learning space or classroom, please contact our Youth Program Coordinator Amanda Zimmerman at (207) 985-3244 ext. 109 or via email.


Lessons can be presented virtually, or in person to a small cohort, a classroom or even a large school-wide assembly. Each presentation’s lessons are customized to fit into the classroom or cohort’s curriculum or school’s learning model.

Virtual presentations are available and are indicated with a (V). Lesson topics include:

(V) Breed Bullies and Bully Breeds: In this lesson, we discuss breed-based discrimination and how kids can advocate against breed bullies while supporting bully breeds. When possible, a pit bull-type dog will be part of the presentation.

(V) Community Cat Advocates: What is the difference between stray cats, outdoor cats and community cats? We learn ways to tell which type of cat needs our help and which type of cat is already living its best life!

Do Animals Talk to Us?: Students learn how many ways animals communicate with us and how we can respectfully respond. We’ll learn how to tell what an animal is saying by their various movements and sounds. We explore pet body language and how to better understand their feelings, as well as interact with them in a positive and safe way.

(V) Fostering 101: Many rescue groups rely solely on foster families to care for pets. AWS has an animal shelter, of course, but also has a robust foster care program. We will learn what foster care is, how animals benefit from it and how kids can help!

How to be an Advocate for Animals: What can you do to help animals in need? In this lesson, students will learn the innovative ways they can help animals close to their homes, in their communities and around the world.

(V) Pet Care Costs: There is nothing like having a loving pet at home!  In this lesson, we learn about the resources needed to take care of a pet and learn how to best budget to support our pets’ care and wellbeing.

Philanthropy in the Classroom: Through engaging and interactive presentations, students learn ways to support their community. Lessons focus on helping animals in need, through philanthropy, advocacy, and volunteerism. Students learn how giving – both individually and as a community – can make a big impact on the world around them. The presentation includes a visit from a companion animal that positively benefited from the kindness and charity of individuals and groups in the community. Many classrooms follow up the presentation with a class- or school-wide donation drive to collect funds and supplies for AWS.

(V) Seniors Rock!: Everyone thinks kittens, puppies and other baby animals are the cutest things ever! But what about after they grow up? What about when they are in their golden years? In this thought-provoking lesson, we learn about senior pets (dogs and cats older than 8 years old), why they take longer to be adopted and how to provide them with the love and medical care they deserve. And most importantly, we learn why they make great pets!

Small Animals: Students learn how to properly care for and handle our littlest animal friends such as rabbits, Guinea pigs, rats, chinchillas, and more.

Spay/Neuter: When we bring up spay/neuter to children, they always seem to ask, “But why would we stop animals from having babies? We love kittens and puppies!” In this lesson, we explore why these surgical procedures are so critical to animal welfare, using math and storytelling. We include an interactive demonstration on how to use “TNR” (Trap, Neuter, Release) equipment.

What Goes on at AWS Every Day? Most know that the AWS staff and volunteers find homes for animals. But how does that happen? What takes place at the shelter every day? How are hundreds of animals cared for at once? What else happens at AWS to support the community and its pets? This lesson explores some of the many jobs, functions, and tasks that need to happen day to day so that the AWS can carry out its mission.

Collaborative Programs

Animals Unite Us

This program seeks to bridge the cultural gap around having pets for immigrant and English language learning students in area schools. The in-classroom program consists of regular hour-long workshops where students learn the basics of pet care for companion animals commonly kept as pets in American homes or found in US animal shelters.
Each Animals Unite Us workshop ends with a written reflection portion for students to consider “Woof is the same in all languages” and “Meow sounds the same everywhere.” Students have the opportunity to write about how the workshop has cultivated their cultural, emotional and physical understanding of the particular pet they have met and to pose questions for further contemplation.

Jumping for Joy

Originally conceived by the Marin County Humane Society, this program brings together high school students on the autism spectrum and dogs for in-classroom workshops on canine training. While navigating through an agility course, Jumping for Joy students interact socially, grow communication skills, and improve problem solving, all while building confidence and self-esteem.


Using a curriculum established by the Yale University School of the 21st Century and the Millan Foundation, Mutt-i-grees uses companion animals as a vessel to teach and social and emotional skills to students in all grade levels. Lessons build empathy, compassion, and community amongst students. The semester-long program is presented in five units:

  • Achieving Awareness
  • Finding Feelings
  • Encouraging Empathy
  • Cultivating Cooperation
  • Dealing with Decisions

In person presentations include a visit with a pet.

Pawsitive Connections

Though a series of six to ten progressive lessons, Pawsitive Connections teaches empowerment, compassion and care. By partnering with alternative learning programs, Pawsitive Connections uses humane education and community-based learning to provide students a chance to thrive in and out of a classroom setting.

Lessons show students how they can make a difference to animals in need by empowering them to take action and work together. Each lesson is tailored to the specific population’s needs and include hands-on project work with the pets at AWS. Through visits and hands-on practice, both at AWS and in the classroom, students learn as much about themselves as they do about the animals they are serving.