Preschoolers make connection with shelter pets

Preschoolers use art to spotlight and connect with shelter animals
Posted on 04/01/2024
This is the image for the news article titled Preschoolers use art to spotlight and connect with shelter animalsYoung artists at Children’s Corner Preschool in Piscataway have been using their talents to draw adorable portraits of dogs in need of a home, based on photos from Edison Animal Shelter.

Art teacher Paige Berkowitz initiated the project to allow her students to work on their drawing skills, while making a special connection with the animals waiting to be adopted.

“I was inspired to create this project because my students are learning about the Pet Vet theme, so one of their centers is pet adoption,” she said. “I thought it would be a great idea to have them draw pictures of actual dogs in our area who need to be adopted. There are so many amazing animals right here in our county that need a loving home, so I wanted to raise awareness about that.”

Children’s Corner Principal Jennifer Sernotti explained that Pet Vet is one of the school’s theme-based centers that allows students to learn about the world and their place in it. During this theme, students learn about different pets and how to take care of them. She credited Berkowitz’s unique project for supporting the students’ learning while also working toward a wider objective.

“It’s inspiring to see our students learning the value of kindness and giving back,” she said. “Even our youngest learners can help our community.”

preschool class holding drawings
Students at Children's Corner Preschool holding their drawings of dogs at Edison Animal Shelter and photos of the animals. The children are with Principal Jennifer Sernotti and art teacher Paige Berkowitz.

Berkowitz, an animal lover who has an adopted pit bull/lab mix named Teeq, also started a pet food drive at Children’s Corner to benefit Edison Animal Shelter. Students and families can bring in dog and cat food, treats, toys, blankets or towels until April 12.

“I’m a huge animal lover so being able to help our local animals and animal shelter was important to me,” Berkowitz said.

The art project is a way for the preschoolers to learn to draw what they see, while making a real connection with the dogs at the shelter.

preschoolers holding drawings

“My students loved drawing the dogs,” said Berkowitz, who is in her first year of teaching at Children’s Corner. “They thought all the dogs were cute and renamed them to whatever they wanted. Some students drew multiple dogs on their papers so each dog had a friend. Other students made their dogs rainbow because we have been learning about the colors of the rainbow.”

Rebekah Sterlacci, Piscataway’s supervisor of visual and performing arts, praised Berkowitz’s work.

“I think this is an amazing way to build community connections and tap into our department's belief that art changes everything,” she said.

preschoolers holding drawings

Children’s Corner has expanded in recent years thanks to NJ Preschool Expansion Aide, and now offers free preschool at three locations serving over 600 3- and 4-year-olds living in Piscataway. Classrooms are designed with learning centers that focus on literacy, blocks and puzzles, science exploration, dramatic play, music and art.

“We have a very robust preschool program in Piscataway,” said Superintendent Dr. Frank Ranelli. “It sets that foundation of understanding so many areas of communication. It helps teach interaction, problem solving, teamwork, and really an understanding of socialization. Ms. Berkowitz’s unique project fits in perfectly with that mission, helping our youngest learners develop their art skills as well as empathy and a sense of community.”

preschoolers holding drawings

Berkowitz reached out to Edison Animal Shelter because she wanted to help a local pet adoption center, and they were nice enough to give her photos of the dogs waiting for adoption. The shelter also plans to use the drawings on their website and social media.

“I loved this art project and am excited to have full boxes of pet food donations given to Edison Animal Shelter,” she said.

flier for pet food drive

She also hopes the project could instill in the preschoolers a lifelong love of animals and of helping others.

“I hope my students go home and tell their families about dogs and cats that need homes in our area,” Berkowitz said, “and I hope that they will have a passion for helping out in our community by giving back, whether it is food for animals or people in need.”

preschoolers holding drawings