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Jean Gilbert’s background is in elementary education, and her passion in life is for animals. When the pandemic closed her avenues for reaching out to children about animal issues, she found a way to keep moving forward.
A longtime member of the Humane Society of Southern New Mexico (HSSNM), Gilbert has, for years, done outreach about the importance of spay/neuter, vaccinations, microchips, service animals and humane treatment of companion animals, usually to small groups.
When the pandemic hit, she aligned with Cruces Creatives and what evolved was a new education outreach program for HSSNM.
“I put together a lesson on rattlesnakes as part of [Cruces Creatives’] ‘Maker Kits’ and collaboration with S.T.E.M. & Las Cruces Public Schools, with the kits included with kids' sack lunches. From rattlesnakes it grew, and I developed units on rabbits, cats and dogs for HSSNM’s website,” Gilbert said.
Each unit, she said, follows a template: three stories on the subject with links provided to the read a-louds, drawing, coloring, art and craft activities, puzzles or quizzes involving language or math skills and facts about the subject for further inquiry and research.
“Putting together the units has been fulfilling, especially at this time, when it’s not possible to hold ‘Fur'ever Friends’ or ‘Critter Connection’ sessions in the schools or Boys & Girls Club,” Gilbert said. “I love children's literature, so being able to promote some of my favorite kids' stories is exciting. Many are award-winning and truly essential to the curriculum I use.”
Children who read one or more of the featured stories or provide answers to the puzzles/riddles with a reply to HSSNM are eligible for free prizes, including a book about animals and finger puppets, she said.
“It's fun learning about kindness to animals,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye.
The four units, she said, are all accessible at www.hssnm.org with links provided to the story read a-louds.