Submitted by Rene Carroll

First grade students at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary learned the joy of giving by creating toys and blankets for dogs and cats residing at the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society (WCGHS).

WCGHS – Cape project: Sophia Lohand and Ivy Carnera. Photo credit: Rene Carroll

“This experience was about empathy, caring for those less fortunate, in this case, animals,” said CH-S first grade teacher Darcy Hickey.  “The students have been so excited for this project.  It has become a first-grade tradition at CH-S.”  Students in Taryn Tedford and Nichol Yung first grade classes also participated.

Cathi Parent, Community Engagement Manager with WCGHS, came to CH-S to collect the gifts and talk with students about the shelter and their animals.  She discussed ways that cats and dogs end up there, the foster program, success stories for animals, and volunteer activities.  She also brought Purrgie the cat, a three-year-old tabby, who was a big hit with students.

“We love seeing children and youth of any age wanting to get involved in helping their local community and give back,” said Parent. “Their interest in helping animals is very heart warming.  Many of these pets may have come from unwanted homes or were strays and never knew real love before. Living in a shelter situation, even though they are being taken very good care of and loved on by volunteers, can still be stressful.  Having items like the blankets and toys that were made by the students, can help make their time at the shelter that much better.”

Students also learned about the importance of microchipping pets in case they get lost, spaying and neutering to control the pet population, and the process they go through to help pets get adopted. Parent made sure students were calm, quiet, and moved slowly as they approached Purrgie, who let anyone who wanted to meet her provide ear rubs, back scratches, and pets.

“The project also helps to meet a Washington State standard in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL),” Hickey explained. “This work provides an opportunity for students to consider others and show a desire to contribute to the well-being of our community”

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is broadly understood as a process through which individuals build awareness and skills in managing emotions, setting goals, establishing relationships, and making responsible decisions that support success in school and in life.

First grader Jojo Stevenson thought it was fun to make blankets and toys for these animals.  “I hope these gifts make them happy,” she said.  “I want them to stay warm and stay alive.”

The timing of this challenge was not a coincidence.  “We wanted to send kids off on their two-week break thinking about the joy of giving and that giving of yourself can bring as much joy and excitement as receiving,” Hickey explained.   “We are so proud of these students.”

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