Local School

Local School

Working with Animals 

By Andrew McFarland

It would be hard to find a teacher who is more proud of his students and more enthusiastic about his subject matter than Duncan Sadler, teacher of the Working with Animals Programme at Templestowe College. You would also be hard-pressed to find students more proud of their work in this unique elective programme right here on our doorstep in Manningham.

When this Manningham Life reporter was invited to sit in on one of Duncan’s classes with his amazing students, he knew he was in for a unique experience. Working with Animals is an elective available to students from Years 7 to 12 at Templestowe College. Students learn fundamental life skills such as leadership, personal challenge, communication and teamwork. At the same time, they can pursue their love for animals, learning excellent animal husbandry skills as well as conservation and the environment.

Students leave their seniority behind when they join the programme – a Year 11 or 12 student may find themselves under the supervision of a more experienced Year 9 or 10 students. Now that’s leadership skills! The responsibilities don’t end during the school holidays. These dedicated students attend to the needs of their animals every day, who, in turn, clearly appreciate and love their human carers.

Duncan is particularly proud of the hands-on nature of the programme; students take full responsibility for the welfare and care of a wide range of animals, from fish and reptiles to birds, rabbits, farm animals and native wildlife. These skills can lead to a career in wildlife management, zoos, vets and other animal carer roles.

The RSPCA and other organisations committed to the welfare of our animals are regular visitors to and supporters of the programme. Students even find themselves getting ‘head-hunted’ by external organisations to go and work for them.

Ultimately, the dedication and pride of the students blew this reporter away. While a fantastic experience, the animals in their care are intelligent and demanding. Just try walking two feisty alpacas, a sheep and two goats around the college grounds! Talk about comedians! The 3 Stooges have nothing on these guys. When Loki the hand-raised sheep demands a treat from you – just say yes, or he may just help himself from your pocket! But then, how many students get the chance to cuddle and care for a native Australian Sugar Glider?