Companion Animal Symposium IV: Companion Animal Teaching Symposium: Incorporating Companion Animals into an Animal Science Curriculum
Students have a strong desire for hands on experiences during their undergraduate careers. This can be accomplished through combining teaching with extension to provide students with new experiences. Many students chose Animal Science because they had experiences with extension programs when younger and they have a desire to help animals. Utilizing undergraduate students in community outreach programs provides an opportunity for students to develop critical skills required for employment, but also provides a broader reach of companion animal extension programs. A variety of creative activities can be utilized to improve student learning and gain experiences outside of the classroom. Extension or outreach programs allow for opportunities for students to develop leadership skills. Undergraduate students serving as instructors in 4-H and other youth programs can provide both an impact on the education of the youth involved, but also develop a deeper understanding of materials. Undergraduate students can be involved in teaching health care, nutrition, and other topics related to companion animals to youth audiences. Examples of successful programs include student organized dog training courses, service-learning projects through humane societies or animal rescues, student involvement in feral cat control programs, and student assistance with spay/neuter programs. These activities can support student-learning outcomes as well as provide a valuable community service. During the process, the Kolb’s experiential learning cycle should be used to promote student development. This cycle includes a concrete experience, reflection, conceptualization, and active experimentation. Students must reflect on their experiences, consider how it could be improved, how it relates to their future careers and educational experience, and propose areas of improvement to gain the most from their experiences. Measuring the impacts of these activities on student learning and life skills as well as community implications will be critical to evaluation of the success of the programs.