It may seem unconventional, but once a month the Humane Society of Skagit Valley becomes a classroom for students from State Street High School.
“They enjoy it, but they also learn useful animal skills, and people skills,” said teacher Carly Boyd. “It gets them in the community.”
The field trip is part of Boyd’s Adventure Science class, which she describes as “hands-on science with community engagement.”
“It’s trying to be as hands-on and place-based as possible,” she said.
The class takes two field trips a month, one to the Humane Society and one out with the Skagit Land Trust, where on a recent field trip a handful of students planted more than 100 trees.
“This class stemmed from State Street wanting to be more of a community,” said student Grey White. “We want to be looked at as a normal high school.”
At a recent Sedro-Woolley School Board meeting, White and fellow student Crista Harris talked about their love for their class and their school. The Adventure Science class, White said, has helped the students bond.
“It’s really about making Sedro a better place, while coming together as a school,” White said. “It feels good, too. It’s cool to help the community, but personally, I like the aspect of making the animals feel more at home here.”
Boyd said she has been teaching the class for the two years she has been at State Street.
“It’s fun seeing the kids have fun,” Boyd said. “Being with the animals is a good stress relief as well.”
Harris said she thinks the class has caused attendance to go up and has filled students with a sense of pride.
“I think so many people get excited to be out here, not just because it’s a good thing for the community, but it’s also just nice to be out here,” she said.
On their first field trip since winter break, the Humane Society was relatively quiet, with many animals having been recently adopted.
While that meant there were less animals for the students to work with, they all saw it as a good sign.
“(We’re) helping them get homes,” said Jadon Cass.
At the Humane Society, the students don’t just play with the cats and the dogs, said Executive Director Janine Ceja. They help make the adoption packets that people take home when they’ve adopted their new pets and build the boxes used to transport cats to their new homes.
More importantly, she said, they socialize the animals and give them attention.
“It’s not just walking a dog,” Ceja said. “It’s about enrichment. The animals really enjoy it.”
The students also learn about animal mannerisms, and how to care for the animals, including checking their teeth, paws and ears, Boyd said.
They also add to the animals’ adoptability profiles, which give descriptions of each animal for their potential new owners.
“It gives us a chance to give love to animals that don’t always get it,” student Zay Garcia said.
Before being at the shelter, some of the animals may have had children in their lives and may miss that, Ceja said. Others, may never have had children in their lives and can benefit from the socialization.
One student even adopted one of the cats from the shelter.
“If we can make a difference by touching some hearts and some minds, we’re going to have better citizens,” Ceja said.