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Helping kids form positive relationships with animals 
Even if you don’t have the space or resources to keep animals in your home (or as many as you’d like anyway), there are many ways to help kids learn to appreciate and respect animals. This section presents different ways you can introduce your children to animals and help them appreciate them for the important and wonderful creatures that they are, in a variety of contexts.

  • State and County Fairs

    In addition to the whirlwind of carnival rides, novelty snacks, and opportunities to win giant stuffed cartoon characters, most state and county fairs provide a venue for animal enthusiasts to show off their animals and compete for show honors. This gives the public, which includes children, a chance to see and even interact with animals such as goats, ducks, chickens, pigs, cattle, and sheep, as well as observe equine competitions that may include dressage, jumping, barrel racing, and draft-horse exhibitions. You may even be lucky enough to catch some rounds of sheepdog trials! These kinds of competitions are also often held on fair grounds throughout the year, even when there is no fair being held – just check the fairground’s schedule of events. Below are some examples of chances to see animals at fairs/fairgrounds around the country:

  • Animal Shows and Events

    There are shows dedicated to almost every animal (or group of animals) kept as pets, entertainment, or agricultural purposes. They can be a showcase for the animals themselves or focus on the abilities of these animals (canine agility trials for example).  Most familiar to people are probably dog shows, but one can also attend cat shows, reptile shows, bird shows, as well as catch-all “exotic pet” shows (think hedgehogs, coatis, and sugar gliders – in addition to reptiles, birds, etc.) – and on and on. While your family may not be shopping for a new pet monitor lizard, these shows are exciting and full of educational opportunities to talk with pet enthusiasts and purveyors about the animals in their care – and find out if a certain animal might make a good fit for your family at some point in the future. Links to various animal show sites are included below.

    America's Family Pet Expo: America's largest pet and pet product expo (Orange County California)

    Cat Fanciers Association CFA provides cat shows nationwide. Find a show near you on their show calendar

    The International Cat Association: TICA hosts shows in the United States and abroad. Look at their calendar to see if one of their shows is in your area.

    Repticon: Sharing reptiles with the world This organization puts on reptile shows all over the US

    The Aquatic Experience: Everything aquatic under one roof, from saltwater to freshwater with pond and aquatic animals, education, kids aquarium contest and more

    The American Kennel Club: AKC hosts more than 5000 dog shows throughout the US annually. Find shows near you on their events calendar

    AKC Agility Trials:  Visit the agility events calendar to find an even in your area.

    American Herding Breed Association:  ​See herding dogs in one of their historic roles, herding livestock  Find an event near you

    American Kennel Club Herding Dog Trials: Scroll to the event calendar to find an event in your locale.

    The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association  The PRCA sanctions about 600 events annually in 38 states. Click on Tours and Circuits to see if there is an event near you

    National Finch and Softbill Society:   Scroll to shows on the menu bar to find events in your area.

    Bird Shows by state: Visit their state by state listings to find a bird show in your area.  Scroll to shows on the menu bar to find events in your area.

  • Local Wildlife

    Even the most urban areas generally have some form of access to nature, even if it is completely enclosed within the city. Regardless of whether your home sits at the base of a vast wilderness or your only access to nature is a small city park or slough, getting the kids in your care in contact with nature is an invaluable step in teaching them respect and admiration for wild animals and other organisms. A great way to learn more about such opportunities in your area is to contact your local city or state Parks & Recreation agency. Not only can they provide you with information about where to go but also when organized educational and/or recreational activities are taking place in these natural areas. For example, the Columbia Slough Watershed Council in Portland, OR (a city renowned for its urban green spaces) runs “Slough School” - a curriculum of hands-on academic programs aimed at educating participants about the ecology of the slough and taking part in conservation-minded service projects. Wildlife rehabilitation/outreach centers are another fabulous place for kids to learn about and even interact with wild animal species - these centers are generally very focused on educating the public about understanding and conserving wildlife, which includes responsible hunting and fishing.,4570,7-153-10369_46264-266776--,00.html

  • Zoos and Wildlife 

    Few places offer the breadth of exposure to animals that zoos are able to provide. Children can observe animals from all over the world, often in enclosures painstakingly created to mimic their natural environments and accompanied by information about the animals’ ecology and conservation status. In addition to in situ animal exhibits, some zoo animals have a chance show off their natural and learned abilities in presentations open to zoo-goers at scheduled times during the day. These shows can include falconry, sea lion training demonstrations, and feeding times for various animals. Some zoos also include petting zoos, which can provide valuable hands-on animal time for kids and a chance for them to learn the importance of interacting with animals in a gentle, deliberate manner. Wildlife parks are similar to zoos in many aspects but the animals tend to be kept in much larger enclosures with more limited direct contact with humans. Links to a few zoos and wildlife parks in the U.S. are included below. A Google search will turn up many more, including ones in your locale.  (Memphis Zoo)  (Saint Louis Zoo)  (Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago)  (Houston Zoo)  (Cincinnati Zoo)  (San Diego Zoo)  (Oregon Zoo)  (Wild Prairie Park, Illinois)  (San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

Helping your kids keep pets

Well-meaning parents often get pets for the children but end up as the unwilling wards of these animals once the newness has worn off and the children become distracted with new fascinations. This section describes strategies to be used before, during, and after obtaining a pet for your child, as well as discussing what level of pet care involvement is realistic to expect from your child.


Preparing Your Children for a New Dog

Preparing Your Family for a Dog

How to Prepare Your Household for a New Dog

What You Need to Know Before Bringing Home a New Pet

How to Prepare Your Child for Getting a Pet

5 Things your child needs to know before getting a puppy


Teach Kids Proper Pet Care

Five Ways Having a Pet Teaches a Child Responsibility

10 Life Lessons from Owning a Pet

Family pets teach children about responsibility and empathy

AVA – Pet Pep” (Pet Care Games)

Teaching Kids to Care For Animals

How to Get Kids to Take Care of Pets

Tips For Teaching Kids How To Care For Pets

What pets are good for my kids and our family?

Selecting a pet for your family is a VERY important decision that should take a variety of factors into account. This section is meant to guide you in your selection of a pet that will fit into your family’s lifestyle and be a source of enrichment and enjoyment, as opposed to being an inconvenience or burden.

Questionnaires: (dogs)  (general) (rodents)  (cats)  (birds)

Parents aren't the only ones who can shape a child's view of and relationship with animals. Teachers, by their very nature... teach! With that in mind, we have resources for teachers, as well as parents! 

  • Lesson Plans and Science Fair Projects

    Animal evolution project

    Zoology Science Fair Project

    Writing an Animal Report, Plus Rubric

    Animal Behavior: An Independent Research Project

    Zoology Science Fair Project Ideas

    Animal Science Fair Projects

    Biology/Zoology Science Fair Projects

    Dog and Cat Science Fair Projects

    Zoology Science Fair Projects

    Animal Science Fair Project Ideas

    Teaching kids about animals

    Baby animals science lesson

    ESL animals games, lesson plans, etc.

    K-5: Blubber Lab

    NGSS Free Biology Lesson Plans

    NGSS Invertebrate Lesson Plans

    NGSS Animal Science Lesson Plans

    “Animal Ark” Lesson Plans

    Animal Body Sturcture and Habitat

    NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) Classroom Resources

    Teaches Try Science

    Lesson plans for botany, zoology, physiology, anatomy, evolution, and more…

    Animal Classification

    Run, Jump, Swim or Fly, a lesson on Heredity

    Matter and Energy in Ecosystems: A Unit Plan for 5th Grade Based on NGSS

    Science Activities on Buggy and Buddy that Correlate with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

    3rd Grade NGSS 3-LS2-1 Animals Live in Groups

    Animal Superheroes!

    Life Science for Grade 4 with Wild Kratts

    12 Years of Lesson Plans About the Animal Kingdom (NY Times) Animal Science Lesson Plans

    National Wildlife Foundation Lesson Plans

    Veterinary Science Lesson Plans

    Animal Kingdom Activities

    Biology Lesson Plan Links

    “Amoeba Sisters” science resources

    “Ed Tech Teacher” Biology Resources

    “teAchnology” Biochemistry Lesson Plans

    Animal Cells


    Animal Behavior


    Animal Communication

    Evolution and Anatomy of Flight

    Animal Genetics Lesson/Project Planning

    Nearly every foundational Biology class includes a unit of devoted to genetics. Section 1 includes links to sites devoted to planning lessons around genetics concepts. Section 2 is a collection of genetics resources pertaining to specific domesticated animals who have certain traits that have been exhaustively studied and can be predicted with high degree of confidence. These resources can be used to adapt pre-existing lesson plans in a way that can increase relevance and choice for students, as well as references for class projects. 

    Section 1: Lesson Plans

    Genetics Lesson Plan Resources: 

    Section 2: Species-specific genetics resources:

    Dog Genetics: (eumelanin & phaeomelanin)

    Horse Genetics:


    Cat Genetics:  (“Create-A-Cat”) (Cat genetics lab) (another cat genetics lab) 

    Rabbit Genetics (rabbit genetics lab) 

    Chicken Genetics's%20WebPage/SILKYCHI.htm 

    Pig Genetics!genetics-of-coat-color/eeq9a 

    Sheep Genetics 

    Goat Genetics




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