Nurturing children’s love for animals whilst raising children’s awareness of their human rights!

In 1984 E.O. Wilson, a biologist, introduced the idea of ‘biophilia’ – that innate affinity we humans have for other living things. In recent years, many early educators have recognised this affinity in young children. One of the places where his philosophy is embraced in a very practical way is at Badden Farm Nursery!

Badden Farm Nursery is home to four beautiful donkeys and two pet Guinea Pigs in their playroom. In the Spring, the Nursery cares for orphaned lambs and calves, encouraging the children to be as involved as much as they choose and can safely be. One of the highlights last year was the hatching of hens and pheasant chicks in the playroom!

Children’s natural affinity with animals is embraced and embedded into all teaching at Badden Farm Nursery. Children learn about their right to high quality: relationships, environments, and services through a holistic approach. For example, when caring for these animals, children are supported to think about what these animals need and what their rights are in order to feel at home, cared for, healthy, safe and given everything they need to grow well.

In terms of empathy the children have responded so openly and warmly to the care of these little animals, making the link between the needs and rights of the animals and their own rights effortlessly.

Lavender and Dandelion – the two resident Guinea Pigs at Badden Farm Nursery – gives children endless opportunities to discuss and promote understanding of the wellbeing indicators. From building the hutch to feeding and watering the Guinea Pigs, the children are involved with every aspect of their needs, often relating this to the similarities between themselves and the Guinea Pigs, such as their need for feeling safe, warmth, food, shelter and to be treated with warmth and kindness.

Dandelion and Lavender are used to talk about rights such as the right to being protected from harm, the right to rest and play and to take part in enriching activities. This is a really practical way to explain complex concepts to very young children. Explaining it in relation to looking after animals gives that prior learning springboard that allows easy connections to be made to their own rights.

The benefits of caring for animals are well documented and caring for all the animals on the farm (particularly the Guinea Pigs) have enhanced so many aspects of learning and development for all children and adults.

It has been and remains a beautiful child-focused learning experience watching the children develop their very natural culture of kindness and tenderness, and the many positive therapeutic benefits that come from this experience.

About the Authors

The authors of this guest blog are Jennifer Campbell and Jean Evans, owner and managers at Badden Farm Nursery.

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