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Cows in a field

Think Like an Animal

Temple Grandin was able to improve the lives of millions of animals. How did she do it? By thinking like an animal, caring about animals, and then working hard to make things better for them. You can do the same thing!

Temple Grandin loved cows, so she learned all she could about them. Then she was able to use that knowledge to design better facilities for them. 

  • Temple noticed that cows don’t like things that flap or move in the breeze–things like flags, jackets hung on fences, or chains hanging down. These things made the animals nervous, so Temple made sure none of them were near her cows.
  • Temple noticed that cows like to walk in curved paths rather than straight ones with sharp turns. They like to walk in single-file lines and to feel like they’re headed somewhere safe. Can you guess how she designed her cattle-handling facilities? With curved, single-file paths of course!
  • Temple noticed that cows didn’t like to slide or walk on slippery surfaces, so she made cleated concrete ramps on her dip vat. The cows were much happier!

Look at the animals around where you live–cows, horses, dogs, cats, pigeons–whatever animals are native to your area. You can think of your pets too, of course!

Now think of something they don’t like. Maybe your pet doesn’t like to go to the vet for shots. Maybe the ducks at the park don’t like it when kids throw pebbles into the pond. Whatever it is, think of a problem, then think of a way to solve this problem. 

The first step is to think like this animal. What doesn’t it like? Can you figure out why? Is it the whole trip to the vet that’s scary, or just getting into the travel kennel? Are the ducks scared when other things like crackers are thrown into the water? What would you be thinking if you were the animal?

The next step is to figure out a way to help with the animal’s problem. And use your imagination! You don’t have to stick to just supplies you have around your house or even things that have been invented yet. Temple Grandin did such great things because she didn’t care about doing things the way they’d already been done.

The third step (and maybe the last) is to design your invention. Draw a picture of exactly how it will look and how it will work.  Make sure you think about the details–how big will it be? How heavy? How many animals will be able to use it? What color will it be, and what colors does your animal like? 

If it’s possible, build your invention for real! But make sure you consult with an animal expert before trying it out. 🙂

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