August 25, 2010
Power in Numbers: Start a Youth Club
Tips for teachers on how to start an animal protection club at school
Do you think the talents of young people can go a long way toward helping animals, but you’re unsure of how to get kids and teens together for the cause? Forming an animal protection club can be a fun way to teach about empathy and animal related issues and to utilize service-learning to get kids active on behalf of animals. These guidelines will help you get started.
Step One: Save the Date
Decide whether your club will meet during or after school and the frequency and time of your meetings. Try to avoid times that may compete with other student activities and extracurricular activities. Keep in mind that if meetings are scheduled too frequently there may only be a small turnout at each one. If not enough meetings are scheduled members may lose enthusiasm. Try to strike the perfect balance. Many school-based clubs meet once a month if the club period is not built into the school-day schedule.
Step Two: Limit Your Size…but Not Your Success!
Decide on a limit of club members (at least initially). Pick a number with which you will be comfortable (we suggest 10-30). More than 25-30 can be difficult if they need more direct guidance. Once your club is up and running you can always add more members. The older members will help teach the new members.
Step Three: Recruit Members
You may already have many young people who are looking for a way to be active and you may not have to recruit. If you do have to recruit members a great way to start is by asking interested students to ask friends and help spread the word. Students can also help to recruit by making and posting fliers and creating announcements or advertisements for the school newspaper.
Step Four: Application Basics
An application will help you learn more about students’ interest in animals and the skills and talents they will bring to the group. It is also a way to gain parental permission for club participation. Finally, an application will let you find the most dedicated students should you need to limit membership. The application should include:
- A letter explaining purpose of club and what types of issues and activities will be involved
- Applicant requirements, e.g., age, grade, attendance expectations, fee (if any), pick-up policy (if applicable)
- Name, parent(s) name, and contact info
- Parent’s signature granting permission and a liability waiver (if required by your school)
- Space for students to explain why they want to join your club
You may wish to interview applicants to ensure they understand all requirements and that work and dedication will be involved.
Step Five: Meet & Greet
The first meeting will be very important for setting the tone for future meetings. This is a chance to welcome members and discuss club goals. The first meeting is also a great time for you, the group advisor, to find out the many talents that are present in your club.
Animal Allies Explain why you decided to form the club and what you hope to accomplish. Review current animal protection issues, why action is needed, and what your overall focus will be. Consider showing videos to introduce the issues (there are plenty of videos you can use at humanesociety.org/video). Have the group brainstorm a list of issues they consider to be the most important.
The Name Game Ask for club name suggestions from new members and jot them down on a chalkboard or flipchart. The name should be catchy and reflect the club’s focus. Vote for the best one.
Logos are Lovely If you decide you want a club logo, ask members to submit sample ideas at your next meeting. Tell members it should be an illustration that uses your group’s name or appears next to the name.
Operation: Organization Decide how your club will be organized in terms of leadership. Will you have a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary? If yes, take the time to introduce the roles of officers and to take nominations. Be sure to vote for club officers in the second meeting. If you would rather have a less formal structure, you may take a more active role in managing the club and coordinating activities. You could have a different person lead each meeting so all members play an active role. Depending on the number of people and interests, consider forming committees that work on certain issues.
In your next meetings, consider following an agenda like this:
- Animal news: You and club members share recent happenings in the animal kingdom, such as a news story about an animal protection issue. This is a great opportunity for members to share concerns, get questions answered, and celebrate victories. HumaneTeen for middle- and high-schoolers and KIND News Online for K-6 students are good sources of information.
Speakers: You do not have to do all of the talking at each meeting! Club members will appreciate visits from trainers, groomers, veterinarians, animal lobbyist, wildlife rehabilitators, or another animal advocate who would like to share an area of expertise.
Club members as speakers: Club members can be a valuable educational resource. Members can be assigned to research an animal related topic and present the situation or suggested action. What a great way to develop public speaking skills!
Discuss and do activities from humane education materials: For students in middle and high school, consider having club members sign up for free online courses through Humane High School. For K-6 students, think about purchasing a subscription to KIND News, our award-winning classroom newspaper. The articles, short stories, activities, and projects in KIND News teach children the importance of treating people, animals, and the environment with kindness and respect.
Step 6: Get Active!
Now that your club is up and running, consider these service projects.
Public Awareness Campaigns: Young people are great at spreading the word, especially when it involves technology. Your club can educate your community about issues like the importance of spaying and neutering, how to report animal cruelty, or
Mission: Humane Projects: Mission: Humane is designed to get young people working on the most important issues affecting animals today. The projects offer a range of animal protection activities with fun rewards.
Lobbying: On the local, state, or federal levels, your club members can do letter-writing campaigns. Check the Take Action page for pressing animal issues, and see our Mission: Humane Action Guide for tips for kids and teens!
Service Learning: Learn about this trend in education and find activity ideas.
Don’t forget to include refreshments at meetings. If your club meets after school there is a good chance your members will arrive hungry. (Check our recipes page for snacks like Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, Gingerbread Cookies, Fudge Brownies, and more.) Snack preparation can be one task which is shared by the club members, or you may want to collect a small fee to cover food expense.
Once your club is established, have fun! Don’t miss opportunities to utilize the multiple talents of club members and get them involved in community projects. Your club members will be honing their civic and academic skills while acting as new animal ambassadors. For more inspiration, check out our profiles of successful youth clubs.