Preservice Teachers Map Compassion: Connecting Social Studies and Literacy Through Nonfictional Animal Stories

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<ul><li><p>Preservice Teachers Map Compassion: Connecting Social Studiesand Literacy Through Nonfictional Animal Stories</p><p>Audrey C. Rule Sarah E. Montgomery </p><p>Sarah M. Vander Zanden</p><p> Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013</p><p>Abstract Nonfiction stories of animal compassion were</p><p>used in this literacy-social studies integrated lesson to</p><p>address both efferent and aesthetic stances in transmediation</p><p>of text from picture books to maps. Preservice early child-</p><p>hood and elementary teachers chose places from the nine</p><p>recent childrens stories, symbolizing them on a map while</p><p>completing other map elements such as legend, index, title,</p><p>and compass rose. Compassion and social-emotional skills</p><p>were woven into the project by representing the affective</p><p>tone of story events at various places through choice of place</p><p>name adjectives. A social studies extension included analy-</p><p>sis of how the five themes of geography were depicted on the</p><p>map. Synopses of the books, one map made by first graders,</p><p>and three preservice teacher-made maps, along with efferent</p><p>and aesthetic elements and examples of geography themes</p><p>from the maps are included. Suggestions for implementation</p><p>and extension of the lesson with early elementary students</p><p>are provided.</p><p>Keywords Compassion Map skills Literacyintegration Reading response Social-emotional skills</p><p>Introduction</p><p>This article presents an activity using true stories of kind-</p><p>ness between animals or between humans and animals in</p><p>integrating literacy and social studies to develop young</p><p>childrens compassion. An excerpt from Tarra &amp; Bella:</p><p>The Elephant and Dog Who became best friends (Buckley</p><p>2009), one of the picture books used in the activity, shows</p><p>how a retired circus elephant stood by her injured dog</p><p>friend at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.</p><p>For a long time, Tarra remained standing in the same</p><p>spot, so the caregivers thought that Bella must be</p><p>close by. But still, they couldnt see or hear her. After</p><p>a big search around the area, they finally found Bella</p><p>lying in a shallow ditch, almost completely hidden by</p><p>tall grass. She was clearly hurt and could not walk,</p><p>but Tarra never left Bellas side the whole time they</p><p>were waiting for help. (p. 16)</p><p>Similarly, this section from Owen &amp; Mzee: The true</p><p>story of a remarkable friendship (Hatkoff et al. 2006) tells</p><p>how a baby hippo named Owen, rescued from being</p><p>stranded alone on a reef after a tsunami, began a friendship</p><p>with a 130-year old tortoise named Mzee at a wildlife park.</p><p>As soon as the ropes that held him were untied, Owen</p><p>scrambled from the truck directly to Mzee, resting in a</p><p>corner of the enclosure. Owen crouched behind Mzee,</p><p>the way baby hippos often hide behind their mothers</p><p>for protection. At first Mzee wasnt happy about this</p><p>attention. He hissed at Owen and crawled away. But</p><p>Owen, who could easily keep up with the old tortoise,</p><p>did not give upWhen the park workers checked onthem in the morning, Owen was snuggled up against</p><p>Mzee. And Mzee didnt seem to mind at all. (p. 16)</p><p>Compassion</p><p>The animal stories on which this article focuses all show</p><p>caring of one animal for another or caring between animals</p><p>and humans. Daniel Goleman (2005) defines compassion</p><p>A. C. Rule (&amp;) S. E. Montgomery S. M. Vander ZandenDepartment of Curriculum and Instruction, 618 Schindler</p><p>Education Center, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls,</p><p>IA 50614-0606, USA</p><p>e-mail: audrey.rule@uni.edu</p><p>123</p><p>Early Childhood Educ J</p><p>DOI 10.1007/s10643-013-0597-2</p></li><li><p>as a benevolent attitude, a predisposition to help others.</p><p>Compassion lifts us out of the small-minded worries that</p><p>center on ourselves and expands our world by putting our</p><p>focus on others (p. x). Compassion is an important skill</p><p>for developing a sense of unity with others in a diverse</p><p>society. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the</p><p>Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso (2013) explained:</p><p>The more we care for the happiness of others, the</p><p>greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Culti-</p><p>vating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others auto-</p><p>matically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove</p><p>whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives</p><p>us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encoun-</p><p>ter. It is the ultimate source of success in life.</p><p>There is a growing interest, reflected in educational</p><p>policies in many countries, including the United States, in</p><p>the development of social and emotional skills of students</p><p>as a way of improving their well-being, adjustment, and</p><p>academic performance (Humphrey et al. 2011). These skills</p><p>include such competencies as self-awareness involving</p><p>understanding ones own emotions, self-management of</p><p>emotions or behaviors, social awareness of the emotions of</p><p>others and empathy/sympathy for otherscompassion</p><p>(Denham 2005). Important relational skills identified by</p><p>Denham include social problem solving, cooperation, lis-</p><p>tening, turn-taking, and seeking help. Students early years</p><p>are an important time for growth of these skills, which if not</p><p>developed, may result in discipline problems and poor</p><p>academic performance (McClelland 2006) leading to</p><p>increased risk of dropping out of school, substance abuse,</p><p>delinquency, and violence (Richardson 2000). Learning</p><p>how to use social skills to engage in democratic discussion</p><p>to negotiate exclusion and explore multiple perspectives</p><p>can be an integral part of an early childhood curriculum</p><p>(Paley 1992; Vasquez 2004). Implementing a program that</p><p>addresses social-emotional skills during a childs early</p><p>years has been shown to reduce aggression and increase</p><p>desirable social behaviors (Schultz et al. 2011). Promoting</p><p>social-emotional skills is also important within teacher</p><p>education given that preservice teachers can also change</p><p>their attitudes regarding the treatment of others if they</p><p>undergo methods courses that provide new experiences and</p><p>expose them to diverse perspectives with group support</p><p>(Garmon 2005). Integration of social-emotional skills with</p><p>literacy-social studies lessons in methods courses, as</p><p>described in this article, may lead to their meaningful</p><p>application and practice in classrooms.</p><p>The Affinity of Children for Animals</p><p>The nine picture books selected for this activity featured</p><p>animals. Synopses of the books are provided in Table 1.</p><p>These picture books were selected because children have a</p><p>natural attraction to animals; animal compassion stories</p><p>can be emotionally compelling for children. Animals fill</p><p>most childrens worlds via real pets (three-fourths of</p><p>American children own pets) and true or fictional animal</p><p>characters in books, videos, toys, and games. Childrens</p><p>innate interest in animals is shaped by their home and</p><p>school experiences, influencing the kind of persons into</p><p>which they develop (Melson 2005). Interactions with ani-</p><p>mals such as classroom pets can even have an impact on</p><p>children, for, according to Bartlett (2006), the presence of</p><p>these animals allowed students to soften harsh behaviors, to</p><p>take academic risks in return for the chance to cuddle a</p><p>furry creature, and to turn attention from watching wist-</p><p>fully out the window to observing the indoor animals.</p><p>Using stories of animal compassion to promote social-</p><p>emotional skills among children is relevant given the sci-</p><p>entific evidence that animals experience compassion.</p><p>Family dogs have been shown to display consolatory</p><p>behaviors toward distressed children in experiments (Zahn-</p><p>Waxler et al. 1984). Laboratory rats and pigeons exhibit</p><p>strong emotional responses to the suffering of others of</p><p>their species, acting to stop the source of misery through</p><p>pressing a bar in the cage. Experiments indicate that</p><p>monkeys will even starve themselves when they know</p><p>taking food will result in a shock being administered to</p><p>another nearby monkey (Preston and de Waal 2002). Such</p><p>findings provide support for the use of non-fiction chil-</p><p>drens literature about animal compassion in classrooms.</p><p>The stories on which this project focused are particularly</p><p>powerful because they are true, providing satisfying proof</p><p>of animals caring for each other and for humans, and</p><p>affording the opportunity to consider questions of how we</p><p>treat others. Nonfiction animal stories can also teach</p><p>humane education, an area of growing interest because of</p><p>its positive impact (Ascione 1992) not only on treatment of</p><p>animals, but on students attitudes toward each other. Faver</p><p>(2010) found that childrens aggressive behavior caused by</p><p>exposure to family violence was prevented or interrupted</p><p>by animal-related humane education lessons that taught</p><p>respect, kindness, and compassion. Humane education</p><p>programs have been shown to positively impact student</p><p>behaviors such as reduction in school suspensions through</p><p>violence-prevention lessons that featured a shelter dog</p><p>(Sprinkle 2008) and an Australian humane education pro-</p><p>gram ending with a visit to an animal shelter, which</p><p>improved boys attitudes toward other people (Arbour et al.</p><p>2009). A study (Esteves and Stokes 2008) focused on</p><p>observations of social interactions of three elementary aged</p><p>children with developmental disabilities with their teacher</p><p>during the presence of an obedience-trained dog indicated</p><p>an increase in overall positive initiated behavior toward</p><p>both the dog and the teacher. Similarly, another</p><p>Early Childhood Educ J</p><p>123</p></li><li><p>investigation (Anderson and Olson 2006) documented the</p><p>positive effects of promotion of emotional stability,</p><p>improved school attitude, and facilitation of learning about</p><p>responsibility, respect and empathy when a dog was pres-</p><p>ent in a self-contained classroom of six children diagnosed</p><p>with severe emotional disorders. Additionally, Prokop and</p><p>Tunnicliffes study (2010) showed that long-term contact</p><p>with animals through pet ownership improved childrens</p><p>attitudes toward unpopular animals, such as crop pests</p><p>(potato beetle), predators (wolf), and potential disease</p><p>carriers (mice), along with childrens knowledge of ani-</p><p>mals in general. Responding to non-fiction animal com-</p><p>passion stories may, therefore, positively impact student</p><p>development of social-emotional skills.</p><p>Table 1 Synopses of Books</p><p>Book Brief synopsis of compassionate event(s)</p><p>Tarra &amp; Bella: The elephant and dog who became best</p><p>friends (Buckley 2009)</p><p>Tarra, a roller-skating elephant who has retired from the circus, lives at the</p><p>Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Tarra made friends with a stray dog named</p><p>Bella. When Bella was injured outdoors, Tarra stood by her for hours, waiting for</p><p>help. After Bella was taken to the animal hospital, Tarra visited her and helped in</p><p>her recovery so that they could return to playing and roaming together in the</p><p>sanctuary</p><p>Nubs: The true story of a mutt, a marine, and a miracle</p><p>(Dennis et al. 2009)</p><p>A small mixed breed stray dog whose ears had been clipped, Nubs, led a pack of</p><p>wild dogs in the desert of Iraq. Nubs developed a friendship with Brian, an</p><p>American soldier, who fed him scraps. When Nubs was wounded, Brian nursed</p><p>him back to health, rubbed his belly, and allowed him to accompany him as he</p><p>kept watch. When Brian moved 70 miles away, Nubs followed, walking alone</p><p>over the cold desert. Brian and his friends raised money to fly Nubs to a safe</p><p>home in San Diego with Brian</p><p>Winters tail: How one little dolphin learned to swim</p><p>(Hatkoff et al. 2009)</p><p>A young dolphin became entangled in a crab trap, causing ropes to strangle her tail.</p><p>A fisherman released her from the ropes, but she was too exhausted and wounded</p><p>to swim away. The dolphin was taken to an aquarium where her damaged tail fell</p><p>off. She slowly recovered, learning to swim with a prosthetic tail and</p><p>encouraging children with prosthetic limbs who visit her</p><p>Owen &amp; Mzee: The true story of a remarkable friendship</p><p>(Hatkoff et al. 2006)</p><p>On the coast of Kenya, some river hippos were feeding close to the sea when a</p><p>tsunami wave stranded a young hippo on a reef. People rescued the hippo, but</p><p>could not locate his hippo family. The hippo, Owen, was taken to a wildlife park</p><p>where he met a 130 year old tortoise named Mzee. The two developed a strong</p><p>friendship, swimming and eating together along with sleeping next to each other</p><p>at night</p><p>Molly the pony: A true story (Kastor 2008) A pony was left alone in a barn for 2 weeks during Hurricane Katrina. The pony</p><p>was rescued and taken to a pasture, but a vicious dog bit the ponys leg, inflicting</p><p>deep injury. Luckily, the pony received a prosthetic leg and learned to walk and</p><p>trot with it. Molly the pony visits childrens hospitals and retirement homes,</p><p>making new friends</p><p>Two Bobbies: A true story of Hurricane Katrina,</p><p>friendship, and survival (Larson and Nethery 2008)</p><p>A dog and a cat, each with bobbed tails, were left behind during Hurricane Katrina.</p><p>They wandered around New Orleans for 4 months until being taken to an animal</p><p>shelter. The dog and cat were placed in separate pens, but the dog howled and</p><p>barked until the cat was allowed to sleep next to her. It was discovered the cat</p><p>was blind and the dog had been taking care of her. They were adopted together by</p><p>a new owner</p><p>Dewey: Theres a cat in the library! (Myron and Witter</p><p>2009)</p><p>A tiny kitten was left in the librarys return box and was adopted by the librarians</p><p>to live at the library. The kitten, named Dewey Readmore Books, helped out by</p><p>entertaining and comforting library patrons</p><p>And Tango makes three (Richardson and Parnell 2005) In Central Park Zoo, two boy penguins did everything together, including sitting on</p><p>a rock in a nest they made because they could not lay a real egg. The zoo-keeper</p><p>had an egg that needed care and substituted it for the rock. The penguins hatched</p><p>the egg and raised the chick named Tango, becoming a family with two daddies</p><p>Hachiko: The true story of a loyal dog (Turner and</p><p>Nascimbene 2004)</p><p>Hachiko the dog waited for Professor Ueno every day to return from the university</p><p>on the train. One day the old man died at work, but Hachiko continued to wait</p><p>faithfully for him at the same place every day for 7 years, searching the</p><p>passengers faces as they exited the train, looking for his master. The people of</p><p>the town raised money to make a brass statue at the train station in his honor for</p><p>his loyalty</p><p>Early Childhood Educ J</p><p>123</p></li><li><p>Social Studies Integration with Literacy</p><p>At a time when social studies education is being marginal-</p><p>ized in classrooms across the nation, using childrens liter-</p><p>ature about animal compassion is a timely, practical</p><p>approach to subject integration (Boyle-Baise et al. 2011). In</p><p>reading and responding to these high-interest texts, educa-</p><p>tors can support students social-emotional skills and inte-</p><p>grate the citizenship aims of social studies education into</p><p>their literacy teaching. Educators can use these texts not only</p><p>to engage student interest while promoting reading com-</p><p>prehension, but also to cultivate compassion and promote</p><p>tolerance within and beyond their classrooms.</p><p>While there are many ways that educators could have</p><p>students respond to and make deeper meaning of these texts,</p><p>this paper describes how map creation was used to expand</p><p>preservice teacher comprehension, promote social-emo-</p><p>tional de...</p></li></ul>