Two young girls who call themselves the Kitty Whisperers will premiere their documentary of the Colony Cats of Washington County at the Companion Animals and the Law Conference at the Duquesne Law School on November 8. The extraordinary story of how this video came to be made and the work of these two girls are not only inspiring, but a phenomenal example of what can happen when the local community and the community of higher education partner with an elementary school in real world project learning.
The summer before fourth grade, Miriam learned of the explosive problem of free roaming cats in our county (strays, abandoned, and feral cats). She was shocked to learn that there are as many free roaming cats as there are domestic ones and the problem was overwhelming local shelters. She proposed a year-long, passion based project at her school’s Research Fellow program and soon found a friend and partner with Jadyn, a classmate who shared her passion.
The two girls set to work researching the problem and found a community of people across the nation working to help. They were enthusiastically welcomed by the Beaver County Humane Society and invited to create a few video webisodes about cats available for adoption and fostering. They became the “Kitty Whisperers,” trying to create videos with the kindness and compassion of Cesar Milan. The videos made their way through social media and brought some traffic to the shelter.
News of their work reached Dr. Faith Bjalobok, an animal advocate, founder Fluffyjean Fund, fellow Oxford Centre Animal Ethics, and Duquesne ethics professor. Faith invited the girls to make a documentary of the Colony Cat Program of the Washington County Humane Society. Parents drove and the volunteers at each site welcomed the girls. The film crew (Jadyn’s 6th grade brother from PA Cyber Charter School) shot footage at each location on a gorgeous summer day filled with cats who had been trapped, neutered, vaccinated, and released. The script had been prepared for several months before the shoot online in Google Drive collaboratively by the girls and Faith. We wandered the various farm, suburban and industrial sites to find the right opportunities for parents to hold cue cards.
The project then went into editing with Nick and a high school student, Luke, who studies filmmaking at Ambridge Area High School. Many hands came together to cut together the footage and images for the Law Conference.
The girls are excited to premiere their film, but even more excited to meet the hundreds of people registered who have placed the humane treatment of animals as a high priority. Duquesne has a history of service learning, ethics and law course dedicated to the effort. The school of Leadership and Professional Advancement offers a Bachelor of Science in Humane Leadership. The Kitty Whisperers are looking forward to continuing their passion based project “solving the problem of free roaming cats, or, at least, advocating for those who are!”
The Kitty Whisperers is a Research Fellow Project made possible through their school by Grow a Generation. If your child or school is looking to develop Passion Based Real World Project Opportunities for children and youth, contact Dr. Ellen Cavanaugh.