“Si! Si!”, shrieks of delight echo around the courtyard as 40 school children excitedly answer our questions about donkeys. “Los burros son inteligentes!”
We are in Xalapa, an historic town in the region of Veracruz, Mexico, situated approximately 350 km south east of Mexico City. The Donkey Sanctuary Mexico team are here as part of an international congress on animal welfare, and as part of this we are delivering an education programme to a group of 40 local school children.
The workshop started with an exercise to find out what the children thought about donkeys. One of the Donkey Sanctuary Mexico staff, Jaime, shouted out a question, and the children had to jump left if they agreed, “Si”, or jump right if they disagreed, “No”. Questions such as “do you think the donkey is intelligent?” and “do donkeys work hard?” were asked, and the children had great fun jumping around the courtyard to demonstrate their responses. The high energy levels in the exercise made it fun and engaging, and it was a great way to find out what local children think about donkeys in their communities.
The game was immediately followed up with a talk about working donkeys, in which the children learnt about what donkeys need to stay healthy, and about how to care for donkeys. The session was really interactive, with the children telling the Donkey Sanctuary Mexico team all about their own animals at home, about their personalities and how they feel about them. This got the children thinking about how they love and value their own pets, and they were encouraged to think about donkeys in the same way, in order to demonstrate the value of donkeys within their communities.
After the talk, we moved back to the courtyard for more interactive group exercises. For the next task, children were put into five groups; each group was given a tub of building bricks and asked to build a ‘house’ for a donkey. This exercise was designed to encourage the children to think about what a donkey needs, and how they would make sure they looked after their donkeys well. It was quite amazing to watch groups of children excitedly chatting about how they could look after their donkey; what he might need, and how they could provide those things for him.
At the end, everyone went round together to see each other’s donkey houses, and each group described what they had built, and what they had included to keep their donkey happy and healthy. The results were remarkable; every group had thought very carefully about the donkey’s needs and built a little house that made sure he was comfortable; one group even included a raised bed for the donkey in case he got tired.
The workshop was great fun, and the children certainly enjoyed it. The interaction and high-energy tasks ensured they will remember what they learnt, and hopefully they will go home to tell their friends and families about the value and importance of donkeys within their communities.