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English class raises money for Humane Society

UMW News Bureau

student petting dog during an animal advocacy projectUniversity of Montana Western Professor of English Rebecca Knotts and her service learning class recently raised $550 through a dog biscuit sale for the Humane Society of Beaverhead County. The class, Writing 101: College Writing  - Learning to be an Advocate for Animals, featured reading material, video, and firsthand experience with animals.

“We began by reading texts written by female advocates, then met female advocates, and then progressed into firsthand experience,” Knotts explained. “We moved from the textbook into real life. I wanted them to experience advocacy firsthand so that they could see how diverse advocacy is.”

The class did not promote a certain agenda. Rather, its purpose was to raise awareness in regards to how consumer needs affect animals, whether it be product testing for cosmetics or food production.

“They all walked away with something different,” Knotts said. “They became more mindful of how human needs and wants affect animals.”

In addition to the every day writing assignments and formal essays, class participants were required to volunteer at the Humane Society for a minimum of ten hours. The class donated a total of 250 hours over the 18-day class. The longer class periods of UMW’s Experience One block-scheduling program enabled the students and Knotts to donate time during many of their class sessions. Under Experience One students take one class at a time, three hours per day for 18 days (one block).

“Students interacted with the animals so they could become more sociable and therefore more adoptable,” Knotts said. “A lot of the students moved past socializing and into training. They also groomed the animals and aided in the adoption of two dogs.”

The class consisted primarily of first-year freshmen who were transitioning from home to college.

“For many, being able to give affection to an animal made the time away from home and their own animals a little easier,” Knotts added.

The class baked dog cookies for their fundraiser in the Montana Western Dining Services kitchen. Many of the fundraiser tables the class set up had a Humane Society dog at the table. This socialized the animals and also showed the public how well-mannered and obedient the Humane Society dogs are.

“I wanted to have them do something measurable,” Knotts explained.

Although they expected to receive donations, the end total of $550 was unexpected, but greatly appreciated.

“The entire $550 will go to the Humane Society,” Knotts said. “They are a no-kill facility, they receive no government funding, and they have a huge amount of expenses. The $550 will go towards food and veterinary expenses.”

The students are now in a class with UMW Professor of Psychology Mike Krank where they will be exploring the psychological relationship between humans and animals.