In close collaboration with a New York City charter school, my colleagues and I are investigating the roles of executive functioning, persistence, etc. on disadvantaged adolescents’ academic success. This strong, reciprocal partnership lets us use multi-dimensional, longitudinal data to advise the school on ways to further help their students overcome the odds. The rich data also provide an excellent—and nearly unique—opportunity to study the long-term interplay between protective factors and various intervention strategies among a large, diverse group of students so that we can also inform the field in general.
Although the primary goal of this exciting series of evaluations is to assess the effect of an integrated humane/caring-for-life education lesson module on elementary students’ attitudes about animal welfare issues, we are also investigating the effects on students’ psycho-social development. The scale of these evaluations is un-precedented in humane/caring-for-life education in any part of the world; that it focuses on them in Asia makes it truly ground-breaking.
Including both clinical and research projects, this area primarily centers around establishing a strong theoretical foundation for Animal-Assisted Interventions so that this diverse and quickly-growing field can develop in an organized way. My colleagues have done an excellent job of bridging the often-wide gaps between the field’s researchers and practitioners to ensure safety; planful program creation and implementation; and valid, informative inquiry. Not surprisingly then, subsumed under our efforts are also evaluations of programs both in terms of their efficacy and their ability to maintain the welfare of all involved—especially for the animals employed.