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Students will: z Learn that animals are only trained to do things that are natural to them z Play a game that demonstrates how training is accomplished using non-verbal communication, repetition and reward z Build observation and problem solving skills z Understand that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process

Learning Objectives


Language Arts: Listening/Speaking: Uses a variety of nonverbal communication skills Language Arts: Reading: Follows directions Life Skills: Thinking/Reasoning: Applies problem-solving techniques

z z z z

Materials Needed

A clicker or whistle Loose candies or something else to serve as a reward Training Riddle Handout #1 Animal Care Handout #2

Teacher Notes

How do trainers get animals to achieve the wonderful performances we see at the circus? All trainers are keen observers. Trainers watch an animal's natural behavior to see what the animal can be taught to do on cue. A trainer could teach a horse to jump a four-foot fence--natural behavior for a horse-- but not for an elephant, because elephants don't jump. Trainers also know that timing is very important. A signal must be given at the exact time the desired behavior is performed. The signal tells the animal it is doing something the trainer wants. If the trainer is consistent while giving the signal, the animal will eventually recognize the signal as a cue, and will get its reward. For example, if a trainer wants an animal to bow its head, but the animal usually turns its head just before bowing, the signal has to be given only while the animal is bowing. If it is given too early, the animal will continue to turn its head before bowing. Working with animals is unpredictable and animal behaviorists know they need to be patient and creative to achieve the desired outcome. For example, one horse trainer needed to have a horse pose for a photograph with his neck out and ears up, but the horse kept walking up to the trainer instead of standing still. At one point the trainer said "no" and tossed some sweet food at the horse. The horse stopped, put his ears up, and looked very photogenic. So the trainer quickly changed his plan, continued tossing food and ended up with some terrific photographs. In this case, it was the animal that actually taught the trainer! "The Training Game" will help your students understand how animal behavior is shaped using signals, repetition and rewards. Students will learn some circus language, practice using non-verbal communication, heighten their observation skills and find creative solutions to training problems. They'll also learn it's alright to make mistakes when training. In fact, mistakes are necessary in order to achieve the desired behavior.

©2007 Feld Entertainment

Animal Care and Training: LESSON PAGE 1

Your students will be interested to know that in addition to training, there are people whose profession is learning about and studying the behavior of animals. This profession is known as an Animal Behaviorist. There are colleges that offer degrees in Animal Behavior, and there are graduates working with veterinarians, circuses, zoos, wherever there are animals.

Activity Directions

1) One student is chosen to be the "animal trainee." A second student is chosen to be the "trainer." The "trainer's" goal is to have the "trainee" perform a specific behavior using non-verbal communication. The "trainee's" goal is to figure out what the desired behavior he or she is expected to perform. Laughter, groans and other sounds are allowed, but words aren't permitted. 2) Send the "trainee" out of the room. 3) Ask the class to choose a simple behavior for the "trainer" to "shape" (perform on cue). Examples of behaviors include raising hands high over the head, hopping once on one foot, turning in a circle, lying down on the floor or standing on a chair. Give the "trainer" a whistle or clicker to use as a "bridge" (a signal to let the "trainee" know it's on the right track) and a supply of rewards (e.g., pieces of candy) for repetition and reinforcement. 4) Invite the "trainee" to come back into the room. Ask the "trainer" to establish a starting point for the "trainee," then motion for the "trainee" to begin moving around. The "trainee" should return to the starting point after receiving each reward and while figuring out what the desired behavior is. 5) When the game is over, ask the "trainer": "Did your training go as planned? What changes or decisions did you have to make?" Ask the "trainee": "How did it feel not knowing what was expected of you? When did you finally begin to understand what the "trainer" wanted?" Ask the rest of the class: "Did the `trainer' provide bridges (signals) at the right times?" 6) Distribute the Training Riddle Handout and allow students time to complete. ANSWERS: 1) Behave, 2) Timing, 3) Creative, 4) Shape, 5) Reward RIDDLE ANSWER: BRIDGE


1) Ask each student to write a plan for teaching a pet a desired behavior. Discuss which plans are most likely to succeed. Students who have pets should discuss with their family and then try their plans at home and share their experiences back in class. Be sure to stress to students the need for patience, consistency, repetition and reward during any attempts to shape behaviors. 2) Practice non-verbal communication by playing "Expressive Eyes." Have each student work with a partner. One student decides on a feeling or emotion (e.g., boredom, anxiety, fear, joy) and tries to communicate that feeling to his or her partner just by using their eyes. After the feeling has been identified, reverse roles. Hints: Write a list of feelings and emotions on the board so students can refer to them. Have students cover their nose and mouth to be certain they are communicating only with

©2007 Feld Entertainment

Animal Care and Training: LESSON PAGE 2


Directions: Fill in the blanks. Unscramble the circled letters to solve the riddle.

Training Riddle

Riddle: People cross it all the time, but circus animals wait for the signal.

1) Trainers teach animals to ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ in ways that are natural to them. 2) ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ is important to be sure animals learn the correct behavior. 3) Trainers always start with a plan, but can also be ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ . 4) In circus language, trainers ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ an animal's behavior. 5) Animals are given a ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ to reinforce their behavior.

Elephant Image

Mammoth Math of Pachyderm Proportions!

Just how do you measure a pachyderm? Start with a foot! Multiply the circumference of an elephant's foot when it is standing by two and that equals its shoulder height! King Tusk, one of the largest Asian elephants to ever tour with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®, had a foot with a circumference of 59 inches around. How many inches tall was King Tusk? How many feet? How many yards?



©2007 Feld Entertainment

Animal Care and Training: HANDOUT #1 TRAINING RIDDLE

Animals depend on Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®, and we never let them down. Taking care of the animals requires a lot of people. The members of the animal care staff include full time veterinarians, vet technicians, handlers and trainers. These people love their animals, and you can tell, because the animal care staff:

1) Provide animals with a safe and nurturing home. 2) Ensure they get a nutritious diet and plenty of water. 3) Groom them daily. 4) Train and reward them in ways that meet both their physical and mental needs. 5) Give them complete medical care 24/7 365 days a year. 6) Use innovative technology to improve overall health care. 7) Keep them fit with daily exercise. 8) Enrich their lives through performance. 9) Speak up for the conservation and protection of all animals. Visit to see how Ringling Bros.® is helping the endangered Asian elephant. 10) Love them!

10 Cool Things We Do for Our Animals

Attention: Pet owners! How many of these things do you do for your pet? ____________________________ ______________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________

To learn more about the amazing animals at Ringling Bros.®, log on to

©2007 Feld Entertainment

Animal Care and Training: HANDOUT #2


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