Butler students in the “Walking, Wagging and Wellness” course will appear on “Pet Pals,” airing Saturday, March 5, at 10:30 a.m. on WNDY-TV (Channel 23). Host Patty Spitler interviewed students exercising animals and taking part in service learning with the Humane Society of Indianapolis (IndyHumane).
The course, part of the Butler core curriculum’s Physical Well Being track, emphasizes the links between human and animal wellness and social responsibility. Students spend the majority of the semester at the Humane Society facilities.
“They walk, brush and play with puppies, big dogs and cats. They clean kennels and rooms and do basically anything needed there,” said course instructor Lisa Farley, an assistant professor of physical education. IndyHumane staffers Shawna Sims and Rick Doucette oversee student efforts. (See more photos.)
Her students’ service learning provides them an integral connection to the Indianapolis community, Farley said, and allows them to be ” responsible contributors.”
“Students have a hands-on opportunity to learn about being socially responsible by being a good pet owner through effective pet socializing, consistent pet exercise, the benefits of and desperate need for spay/neuter programs,” she said. “Students have an impact on pet adoptions through their service. They end the course by creating public service announcements to inform others about IndyHumane.”
When the course was taught in fall 2010, participating students engaged in more than 600 hours of service over 13 weeks, Farley said, including clearing a tree that fell on the Humane Society property. All freshmen in the course last semester completed their Indianapolis Community Requirement (ICR) of providing 20 hours of community service linked to coursework before graduating Butler. The ICR went into effect with Butler’s entering class of fall 2010.
While service learning activities like these share characteristics with volunteerism, they are not the same, said Donald Braid, who coordinates the ICR program through Butler’s Center for Citizenship and Community. “Butler isn’t just offering our students as unpaid help. We are developing reciprocal community partnerships that benefit both our students’ learning and the needs of our community partners,” he said.
“ICR courses can accelerate the process by which students master skills in their majors, enhance their understanding of personal and social responsibility, and learn to be informed and active citizens.”
“Walking, Wagging and Wellness” students undergo physical tests at the beginning and end of the course, to measure their wellness gains from the activity. They also keep journals that indicate social, emotional and sometimes spiritual wellness.
Spending two hours a week in the activity didn’t result in major physical changes for the students, Farley said. However, “nearly every student improved in their grip strength, and several improved slightly in their cardiovascular fitness,” she said. “And each student has stated that working with the animals has helped them reduce stress.”
“Walking, Wagging and Wellness” is one of close to 30 Physical Well Being core sections offered each semester. Other PWB courses include sport fishing, basketball, yoga and strength and conditioning training.
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