Organization if Educating Students About Animals and Raising Awareness With Small, Fun Programmable Robots
The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA) is Scotland’s animal welfare charity (completely separate from the RSPCA who operate in England and Wales only). This year marks our 180th year helping Scotland’s animals. We were founded in 1839 in Leith in Edinburgh to help working horses.
We receive no government funding and rely on the generosity of our supporters and corporate partners. We encourage kindness to animals, aim to prevent cruelty through education, investigate abuse, rescue animals in distress and find animals new homes.
We are the only charity in Scotland that helps every kind of animal – domestic, wildlife and farm animals.
We have worked hard on developing our ‘Prevention through Education’ programme so that it can reach every type of audience, from early years to older adults, and ensure that everyone we engage with understands that animals have emotions, they have needs and we have a responsibility to care for them and can co-exist together.
Every year our education team speak to around 240,000 children throughout Scotland. We deliver free interactive workshops to both primary and secondary pupils. We update our programme annually to ensure it continues to tie in with the school’s Curriculum for Excellence. We make sure the workshops link with the modern world through using tools such as robotics and interactive games as an innovative method for teaching animal welfare in the classroom. We always look to inspire the next generation, highlight the potential career paths of working with animals and encourage empathetic and compassionate behaviour towards any animals they encounter.
Partnership with Robo Wunderkind
Our unique partnership with Robo Wunderkind has allowed us to use robotics as a great tool that captures seven to 13 year old children’s imagination, encourages them to have fun and be creative, links with the STEM curriculum and brings home how amazing animals really are. Giving children the opportunity to build and code their own robot is enabling them to recognise that animals are actually born with these ‘in-built’ sensors and how it is important that we are aware of these senses when interacting with animals.
The Scottish SPCA would never bring real animals into the classroom so we get the children to meet our robotic friends instead. There are four animal characters that young people can choose to build. Rhu the rabbit, Oscar the owl and Campbell the cat and Caitlyn the chicken. Through coding Oscar, for example, children can change his environment and make him respond to something (like a sound). This links back to how we rescue and help animals as we need to understand their natural environment and needs/senses, how they move when it comes to rescue, what we need to provide for them when they are in our care and likewise where we release or rehome them. Young people need to use their knowledge from games they have played during the workshop, helping them to think about what they should do if they come across an animal. For example, if they find an animal, they should ask themselves questions such as ‘does it need help?’ If yes, tell an adult.
If it’s a pet, does it want to be picked up or have someone making loud noise around it? What can you determine from its body language? If they are near a farm and they have a dog with them, think about what farm animals need, do they want a dog running in the field and scaring the chickens? If they come across an owl sitting on a fence post, what will it see? Should you go near it? What should happen if you do go near it? It may turn its head first to get a better look at you, it may then fly away. If it doesn’t fly away, is something wrong? Through using this storytelling, it helps children imagine a world that their robotic animal is interacting with and code them to respond to different scenarios.
We are very excited about Robo Wunderkind’s upcoming Kickstarter campaign https://robowunderkind.com/kickstarter. We look forward to developing our relationship and workshops further as the technology of Robo Wunderkind’s amazing kits continue to evolve and expand. It’s been a very important learning tool for the Scottish SPCA and has been of huge educational benefit.
More About the Scottish SPCA
We have nine animal rescue and rehoming centres across Scotland and one dedicated National Wildlife Rescue Centre. We have an inspectorate which investigates reports of animal neglect or cruelty.
In 2018, we received over 202,000 calls to our confidential animal helpline. Our animal rescue officers and inspectors responded to 90,000 incidents.
We found forever homes for over 5,000 animals and we reunited almost 1,000 stray animals with their owners. Last year was a record breaking year for our wildlife centre. We released almost 6,000 animals back into their natural habitat and we cared for over 7,500 birds, 188 seals and almost 1,400 hedgehogs.
The Scottish SPCA champions animal welfare and encourages respect and kindness for all animals across all communities in every environment. We promote the importance of the human/animal bond, and the myriad medical, social and psychological advantages gained from animal companionship and positive interactions with our natural wild neighbours and their habitats. We believe prevention is key to tackling animal abuse and neglect and that this is vital in breaking the link between animal directed cruelty and acts of violence towards humans.