Some of our current workshops and activities
Meet the Bears
Our ‘Meet the Bears’ day involves the children and their carers being taken to the Five Sisters Zoo, West Lothian, to meet rescued ex-circus bears Carmen, Suzy and Peggy.
The children receive a bear book and goody bag each and are given a jar of honey to give to the bears to make sure they take their medicine.
The children hear how the bears came from a sad life to a happy home, where they now thrive.
Each child receives a ‘Thank you’ certificate from the bears. They then spend the rest of the day enjoying the zoo as a family.
The children learn how rescue dog Holly wasn’t looked after properly in her early years and had a number of different homes, and how she eventually found a new and happy home where she was loved, nurtured and cared for, and consequently thrived. The children naturally draw parallels with their own circumstances.
During the ‘Hollydays’ workshop the children make up goody boxes of treats and toys which are gifted to local dog shelters, veterinary clinics for street dogs, and service dogs working with our forces overseas. They each write a letter to the dogs to go with their goody boxes.
During Hollydays, we look at the ‘Young Person’s Guide to Woofs and Growls’ to help the children recognise a dog’s body language, and we also look at matching human and dog emotions
As part of the activity, the children make up little memory jars with their name on, decorating them with lots of stickers. They then write on little pieces of paper the things that have made them happy, so that any time they feel down, they can open the jar to remember good things, helping them focus on the positives.
Barking for Biscuits! – The children learn how Holly used to stand outside her favourite neighbour’s house, stare in the window, and bark until the neighbour came out with biscuits. The children hear how Holly always wanted 3 biscuits but only got 2 so as to stay healthy – learning in the process, that not getting everything you want is a sign of love too.
Storytelling and Reading with Dogs
For this workshop we bring in Ruth Kirkpatrick of Stories Allways. Ruth specialises in storytelling for children’s emotional wellbeing and mental health, offering a range of creative ways to use storytelling in a variety of settings.
Ruth’s stories ‘talk’ to the children about universal issues in their own lives, about aspiration, heroism, change, loss, humour and promise. They offer ‘emotional maps’ to help the listener find their way out of a situation which seems hopeless. They show the child that they are not alone in their own world of anxieties, fears, longings and hopes.
Storytelling helps the organisation and ordering of thoughts in the brain. Not only is this essential for education, but it is also crucial for good mental health. Being able to order what has happened, or is happening in your life, means you can better cope with stress and trauma.
Reading with Dogs is incorporated as part of our Storytelling workshops. We team up with the Canine Concern Scotland Trust who provide the therapets. The children bring their favourite book to read to the dogs or, if they struggle with reading, they can share the pictures in their book with the dog. The idea behind reading with dogs is that the dogs provide a non-judgemental audience for children who may struggle to read aloud at school. The dogs help to relax the child, building their confidence and increasing their self-esteem.
Magic of Nature
For this workshop we bring in Emotional Intelligence Therapist, Fiona Ogg. The inclusion of this exciting and innovative project ensures that Fostering Compassion is as effective and beneficial as possible for the children involved.
Magic of Nature inspires children and young people to enjoy, understand and appreciate the amazing world we live in. Taking inspiration from nature, participants not only discover tools and techniques to develop their emotional literacy, resilience and awareness of their relationship with the people, animals and plants we share the planet with, but also gain an understanding of the benefits of fresh air and exercise.
As part of the Magic of Nature workshop, we get the children to make their own dreamcatchers. A Native American legend recounts that bad dreams are caught in the web of the dreamcatcher and only the good ones get through. The children decorate their dreamcatchers with pictures of their favourite animals and take them home with them to hang up in their bedrooms. As many of these children suffer bad dreams and disrupted sleep, it has been wonderful to hear how many of them no longer suffer nightmares.
“I hung my dream catcher up and my nightmares stopped!”
Another element of our Magic of Nature workshop is the ‘Gratitude Tree’. The children are asked to write on little labels the things they are grateful for and then hang the label on the tree.
There has been a huge amount of research carried out on the links between gratitude and well-being, and the benefits of gratitude.
Focusing on the things we are grateful for can help to improve physical and mental health, reduce toxic emotions, reduce depression, enhance empathy, reduce aggression, improve sleep, improve self-esteem and foster resilience – all incredibly beneficial for the children we are working with.
When the children write their labels, often we get responses like ‘ice cream’, ‘chocolate’, ‘scoring a goal at football’, and then come the incredibly moving comments like ‘water’, ‘my friends’ and ‘living in a nice house’. The latter comment saw the Foster Mum of the child who wrote it being visibly moved, and provided a bit of a breakthrough moment for her.
This shows just how beneficial our workshops are – not only to the children, but to the families as a whole.
Be a Vet for the Day
Our ‘Be a Vet for the Day’ workshop allows the children to have access to the Clinical Skills Lab at the Dick Vet School in Edinburgh. They get to dress in scrubs, like real vets, and practice on the animals the students use, including ‘resuscidog’.
They get to conduct a shortened version of a clinical exam, using stethoscopes to listen to heartbeats and getting pulses. They also get to look at x-rays and match them with the picture of the animals.
The children are asked to bring along their favourite teddies and are taught how to apply bandages properly.
The children have great fun practising bandaging – even if their teddies often look like mummies by the time they’ve finished!
The children all receive a certificate for completing their ‘Junior Vet Training’.