by Sally Cohen

SCH Academy sixth graders Carlo Filippini (from left), Sante Filippini and Alex Johnson are teaching their elders a lesson in how to turn compassion into action.

SCH Academy sixth graders Carlo Filippini (from left), Sante Filippini and Alex Johnson are teaching their elders a lesson in how to turn compassion into action.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH Academy) sixth graders Carlo Filippini, Sante Filippini and Alex Johnson recently turned their compassion for suffering circus animals into action to raise awareness and help end the use of animals for entertainment.

After learning the story of 29 circus lions rescued by animaldefendersinternational.org. Animal Defenders International (ADI) from visiting Humane Educator and founder of the local non-profit organization, www.22reasons.org. Gigi Glendinning, the boys met on a regular basis with their English teacher, Holly Spofford, and with Glendinning.

“We noticed,” said Johnson, “how circuses weren’t treating animals fairly and were abusing them, so we came up with this idea to teach people how animals are treated in the circus.”  Collaborating on design and methodology, the team developed innovative ways to raise awareness and money for the care of the rescued lions.

First, they created an interactive “beast wagon” display in their Middle School hallway, evoking empathy for circus lions and tigers, who spend their lifetime in a cage. Then the boys wrote questions and conducted a survey of their fellow students, supporting current entertainment trends with charted evidence; information which will be useful to 22reasons in meetings with local circus sponsors.

On Nov. 8, in a final demonstration, the boys spent four hours in a 6’L x 3’W x 6’H cage in the school’s lobby. The cage, which they built with help from the Filippinis’ father, epitomized the living conditions in which circus lions suffer. “Teaching compassion,” said Glendinning, a lifelong resident of the Chestnut Hill area, “is a matter of getting people to stop for a minute and consider the reality of a situation.

“That way they can make educated, thoughtful decisions about what they support. The boys accomplished that all on their own, which was tremendous.”

Consequently, parents, faculty members and students signed ADI’s petition urging the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors to restrict the use of wild animals in traveling circuses. The boys raised over $200 in donations for the lions as well.

For more information on the campaign to aid caged circus lions, visit www.ad-international.org.