Extra, extra, read all about it! Good News Nelson by Jodi Moore will be released by Story Pie Press and heading to a bookstore near you in early December 2012, and that’s good news! Why is that good news, you ask? Because this intergenerational throwback is a headliner that you will not want to miss. When Nelson, a perky boy with a paper route, delivers the morning paper with a gregarious greeting, most of his customers kindly call out, “What’s the good news, Nelson?” Most, but not all. Mrs. Snodberry doesn’t care much for the news because what she gleans from the news is that “people just don’t care anymore.” But that’s not true, Nelson thinks to himself. “I care,” he says out loud as her door slams shut.
Determined to do more than just deliver the good news (and to show Mrs. Snodberry that people do care), Nelson sets out to solve the cat problem from an article on Monday morning’s front page. When Nelson heads to the animal shelter, he finds that, even though he can’t fix the problem entirely, he can be part of the solution. His customers will have to be willing to give him back the papers that he delivered yesterday, which ought to be easy enough, but how will Nelson’s plan help prod Mrs. Snodberry into action herself?
Let this heartwarming tale serve as a springboard for your next service learning project. It’s been my experience that kids love to help animals; here are some ideas I’ve gathered over the years that might dovetail nicely into your grade level curricular expectations:
1. Conduct an independent research project on your students’ domesticated animal of choice. Collect data and chart the findings on the different breeds of animals your students learn about.
2. Find or illustrate different pictures of dogs and cats. Students can then identify the different needs of the animals. For example, larger dogs need room to run, require more food, etc. This can be a class activity as well. All students that have pets can bring in a picture; as a class you can compare and contrast needs on a thinking map.
3. Create an animal care diary for a virtual class pet. Students can include a picture of the animal, the animal’s breed or name, what the animal likes to eat, games they like to play, when and where the animal needs to be fed, and what other special needs the breed might have. This is also the place where students could research what to do when their animals need health care.
4. Research to find the cost of pet food. Students can discuss how much an animal needs to eat in a year, then calculate the cost of buying that much food for a year. Encourage students to campaign for a creative way to earn the money they’ll need to support their animal.
5. Draw a Wanted Poster listing animal needs around the picture. Students can use their idea web to write an informative paragraph to their parents and the community that teach them about their virtual class pet.
6. Write a persuasive letter to the community to convince someone to adopt their class pet. The letter could also be addressed to an animal trainer asking him or her to donate some time to train stray animals. Well-behaved pets are easier to adopt!
7. Look for a good book on animals, including storybooks about owning a dog, books about service animals that help people, and/or reference books.
8. Chew on dilemmas like the following, adapted from a Barbara Lewis book: Jimmy notices that the dog next door is always barking and seems to be hungry. He assumes that his neighbor is not a good pet owner, so he sneaks over the fence and lets the dog loose. Is this the act of a good citizen? Why or why not? How could you be a good citizen in this situation? What would you have done if you were Jimmy?
9. Watch a film clip about responsible pet ownership. Discuss the pros and cons of owning a pet. Are pets a want or a need?
10. Take a field trip to a local animal shelter so that students can visit with the animals there. Find out if they have volunteer opportunities there, like walking or brushing the animals. Host a drive to collect the supplies the animals might need like blankets, food or chew toys.
11. Gather some friends and host a “Yappy Hour” for pet owners. Groom, walk and play with their pets for a small fee, then donate that money to a charity which helps dogs and cats.
12. Donate dog food online by answering trivia questions at freekibble.com.
What would you add to this list to show that even young kids can do big things to PAWS-itively impact their world? Check out this newcomer; I think you’ll agree that we could all use a little Good News Nelson in our lives.