Celebrating 'Cats, Dogs And Us' with the Los Angeles Unified School District
For the second year in a row, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has partnered with Adopt the Arts Foundation (ATA) and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) – the second largest school district in the United States – on an educational program that integrates classroom curricula with arts education and animal welfare.
IFAW’s newest Animal Action Education theme, Cats, Dogs and Us, was the focus for this year’s program to help build students’ knowledge and critical thinking about two of the world’s most beloved animals while meeting common core and national standards in language arts, science and social studies.
On a Sunday in late April, IFAW, ATA, and LAUSD and over 200 attendees came together for a 3 hour celebration of the culmination of this effort in an art and essay exhibit, Furry Tails, a Celebration of Cats, Dogs and Us, held outdoors at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown LA. The celebration was a fun-filled community event with art, writing, music, face painting, crafts, food, prizes and more!
The Furry Tails artwork and essays were displayed on 4 large banners and included submissions from 168 LAUSD students representing 25 elementary and middle schools throughout the district. Due to the size of the district, art teachers assisted in the selection process making the number of entries manageable for the exhibit.
Through words and art, LAUSD students celebrated cats and dogs and the many ways these companion animals enrich our lives. The theme for the essay portion was Imagine a World without Cats and Dogs and resulted in many heartfelt essays on how the world is indeed richer and more wonderful with these animals by our side. The banners were donated to LAUSD so that they may travel to multiple schools to showcase the talent of LAUSD students and to inspire others.
In addition to the exhibit, the celebration included an official program thanking the participating teachers and individual schools. Matt Sorum, co-founder of Adopt the Arts and Rock and Roll hall of fame inductee, served as the unofficial emcee for the program. The Changels, Adopt the Arts’ youth performing chorus, got the crowd moving by singing several current hit songs.
Nancy Barr, IFAW’s global AAE program director, and Dr. Steven McCarthy, LAUSD K-12 Arts Coordinator, also took to the stage to highlight our partnership and the importance of humane education in early education to help make the world a safer place for animals and people. Actor and IFAW ambassador Joely Fisher and actor Johnathon Schaech were on hand to celebrate the young artists and writers.
Throughout the event attendees enjoyed a variety of activities such as face painting, making a puppy or kitty craft and learning about animals in their community.
Officer Lang from the Los Angeles Police Department attended with his working dog, Laura, a Belgian Malanois, and shared how working dogs help keep communities safe. Laura is an active bomb detection dog at LAX airport and was a big hit with both kids and adults. Amanda’s Foundation, a Los Angeles pet rescue, shared information on pet adoption resources and local pet spay/neuter programs.
All in all, it was a wonderful day of celebrating Cats, Dogs and Us and the greater Los Angeles community, which highly values art education in their school system AND cats and dogs!
In addition to celebrity partner Matt Sorum, we are grateful to our celebrity host committee: Kristin Bauer, Joely Fisher, Gina Gershon, Jane Lynch, and Lesley Nicol. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf also lent their support in the form of raffle prizes for the teachers and guests and by serving cool complimentary refreshments throughout the day.
Special thanks to IFAW staff who made the day possible: Nancy Barr, Christine Jones, Donna Gadomski and Jeff Flocken.
For more information about IFAW Animal Action Education efforts, visit our campaign page.