By Nicholas Elbers
When Queen of All Saints teacher Gema Chavez was looking for ways to help students learn about care for God’s creation, the idea of a pet-friendly animal welfare club seemed a natural fit. Now the Coquitlam school’s Pawsome SPCA Helpers Club is not only a hit with the students, it’s been featured in the BC SPCA student magazine Bark!
The magazine profiled Pawsome Helpers after the school’s SPCA Day raised more than $1,600 for the BC SPCA Tri-Cities chapter. Chavez has also been featured in Meow! magazine, the society’s teachers publication.
Chavez believes the club is a great way to build on the Catholic emphasis of stewardship for God’s creation while building school community and offering students opportunities to build useful skills like public speaking.
“I think it’s important for the kids to see that this is a small way for them to make a big impact,” she told The B.C. Catholic. “They can actually see the difference of what they are doing, and they can see the fruits of that.”
When the club started in January 2022, 24 eager students from Grades 4 to 7 signed up. This year there are 27 regular attendants.
The Pawsome Helpers have hosted several major school events including an assembly to build awareness of the club and inform the school about their mission.
Their school-wide SPCA Day – with face painting, paw necklace-making, and more – was a particular hit, and together with a collection day for sundry pet items like food, toys, and blankets the Pawsome Helpers helped raise about $1,700 for the BC SPCA in the Tri-Cities.
At each meeting, members discuss current events related to animal welfare and stewardship while learning about various topics like “what to do if you find a stray dog.”
The club’s most recent project was a video compiling member presentations on the history of the SPCA, various topics related to first-time pet ownership, and profiles of SPCA animals like Orbit, “a sensitive kitty looking for his forever home.”
Chavez says it has been wonderful to see the growth of the club, both in terms of attendance, as well as its impact on the school community.
The club has also helped students build friendships that wouldn’t otherwise exist with students in other grades, and Chavez says club members have been given a huge confidence boost from doing presentations.
For schools that might be struggling to boost parent involvement, the club can be a big help by offering events that encourage parent cooperation.
Chavez has enjoyed building relationships outside of her Grade 3 classroom. “Unless you are coaching, you aren’t usually able to build connections with all the students.”.
After their most recent fundraiser, the Pawsome Helpers were able to donate nearly $1,000 to the Tri-Cities SPCA. BCSPCA representative Allison Simpson paid a visit to the school to talk with students and thank them for their hard work. She also gave them the exciting news that the Meow! magazine story about them has inspired a teacher in northern B.C. to start a similar club at her school.