Penelope, a four-foot-long Python, flicks her pink tongue up and out as she slithers across the Humane Society of Utah’s auditorium floor. While this might sound terrifying to some, the small group of third and fourth graders watching her closely are more fascinated than afraid. “Can I hold her?” Mason, eight, asks with a polite raise of his hand. Mason adds that he has a corn snake at home, so he knows a thing or two about these legless creatures.
Yet, while Mason is most assuredly a snake guru, most of his peers sitting next to him have never met a python before or a majority of the other animals and creatures they’ve encountered while participating in our week-long H.E.R.O. Summer Camp. “We met an Asian water monger, a snapping turtle, and a tarantula, but the chinchilla is my favorite so far!” says Norah, an adorable third grader with lots of spunk.
During a typical day at our H.E.R.O. (Humane Educators Reaching Out) Camp, children participate in age-appropriate humane education workshops, presentations, games, and more. For example, yesterday, they made mazes to test the intelligence of our adoptable rats. Today, the kids made snake-shaped bowls out of clay. While interacting with animals, making crafts, and going on field trips, camp participants learn, and they learn a lot. “Sure, we want the kids to have fun, but more than anything, we want them to experience and understand the value of animals and how to care and advocate for them,” says Caitlin Lisle, our Director of Humane Education. Studies have shown that humane education helps prevent violence towards animals and helps children to apply the concepts of respect and kindness toward all living beings. It also empowers children to realize that they can make a positive difference in their communities and the world around them. This is the whole premise of the program, says Caitlin. Click here to learn more about our H.E.R.O. Camp.