Dr. Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots

Curriculum-Based Service Learning Program

Middle School Lesson Plans

Animal Community

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Campaign Objectives
  • Students will develop an understanding of the unwanted animal population in the United States, as well as why the need for animal shelters exists.

  • Students will discuss and analyze the needs of animals in shelters.

  • Students will complete a service campaign focused around creating items such as beds and toys for animals living in shelters awaiting adoption.

Essential Questions for Students
  • What role do animal shelters serve in the community?

  • How can you make a positive impact on the lives of animals in shelters?

  • How can educating others impact animals and animal shelters?

  • Students will realize their ability to have a positive impact on the animal community.

  • Students will develop the ability to work as part of a team.

  • Students will develop written and oral communication skills.

Targeted Content Standards

(Taken from www.mcrel.org/standards)

  • Language Arts, Writing, Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process.

  • Language Arts, Writing, Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes.

  • Language Arts, Listening and Speaking, Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes.

  • Life Skills, Thinking and Reasoning, Standard 5: Applies basic troubleshooting and problem-solving techniques.

Community Connections
  • Research local humane or no-kill animal shelters. In addition to the larger shelters, many communities have smaller, privately funded shelters that would appreciate volunteer support.

  • Ask a shelter to send a spokesperson to visit your classroom and help launch your campaign and again at the end of the campaign.

  • Check with local pet stores and trainers to determine if they will send a volunteer to the class. Ask if they have well trained animals to bring with them.

  • Work with shelters, breeders, pet shops, and libraries to arrange for student work to be displayed. Set up a time for your students to present their work to younger students, especially about animal safety.

Building Vocabulary

(Definitions taken from the Yahoo Kids Online Dictionary at www.kids.yahoo.com/reference).


  • Something that provides cover or protection, as from the weather. A refuge; a haven. The state of being covered or protected 

Spay (www.wikipedia.com)

  • To remove surgically the ovaries of an animal

Neuter (www.wikipedia.com)

  • The sterilization of an animal


  • To perform or offer to perform a service of one’s own free will. To do charitable or helpful work without pay.


Students will take on the role of teacher. They will research the topic of unwanted animals and prepare materials for others to learn from regarding animal safety and animal shelters.

Building Knowledge (approximately 1 class period)

  • Read selected book to students.

  • Discussion question ideas include:

    • Have you ever visited an animal shelter?

    • Have you ever adopted a pet?

    • Why do you think animals end up at shelters?

    • How do you think it affects animals to be in a shelter?

Building Compassion (approximately 1 to 2 class periods)

  • Break students into small teams and have each team research one of the two questions below. Each small team should use a different resource to find answers. Information sources can be gathered from animal shelters, state agencies, pet stores, breeders, and trainers. The two questions are:

    • What are the most common reasons animals are brought to shelters?

    • What actions can the community take to help decrease the number of animals brought to shelters?

  • Once the small teams have conducted their research, reassemble students into two large teams based on which question they researched. Have each team prepare a short oral presentation on their findings.

Taking Action (approximately 2 to 4 class periods)

Have students write and design a brochure about their campaign:

  • Break the class into teams and assign each team a topic. Suggestions include:

    • How to safely approach an unfamiliar dog

    • Choosing a new pet for your family

    • Important information about animal shelters

    • Why is it important to spay or neuter pets?

  • Have students use their research to create an informational brochure for use by the animal shelter and/or in the community.

  • Students should be assigned to write articles for the brochure, proofread and edit the articles, design the brochure using a computer and printer or by cutting the articles out and pasting them onto a master brochure that can be photocopied.

  • Arrange for a classroom visit by a shelter worker or animal trainer.

  • Your Roots & Shoots campaign should end on a day where your students present their information brochure to a representative from the animal shelter and/or to younger students. See the Campaign Resources section for template letters to the community to invite them to attend your event, and media releases asking newspapers and television station to cover your event.

Extension Activites
  • Conduct a fundraiser or participate in a local shelter’s fundraising event.

  • Create toys and treats for animals in a shelter (refer to Elementary Lesson Plans).

  • Volunteer at a local shelter.

Additional Taking Action Ideas
  • Assist low-income or elderly pet owners by creating and donating animal toys and bedding.

  • Build climbing posts for cats out of recycled materials.

  • Have a fundraiser to collect items on the shelter’s Wish List.

  • Hold a bake sale and sell treats for people and pets to raise funds for your local shelter.

  • Create a sanctuary outside your school for birds, bats, butterflies, etc.

  • Participate in a letter writing campaign on the behalf of the animals in the shelter.

  • Coordinate a school team to participate in your local shelter's fundraising walk or run.

  • Arrange to volunteer at your local animal shelter for a day. See what special help your shelter needs in October for National Adopt-A-Dog month and June for Adopt-A-Cat month.

  • Write your local representatives regarding issues that are affecting animals in your community.

  • Allow students to present their research in different mediums (PowerPoint, Animoto, oral presentation, picture books or a group skit).

  • Arrange for regular visits to your classroom from a trained therapy pet.

Family Connection
  • Send an informative letter or email to student’s families outlining your campaign (see Campaign Resources section).

  • Ask the shelter you are working with if they have materials that are available to send home.

  • Have students bring in photos of their pets. Did any of these pets come from shelters?

  • Ask parents to talk about the pets they had when they were growing up. Did any of those pets come from shelters?

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