Dogs help schools lick bullies

No More Bullies teaches, with dogs’ help, responsibility, compassion, self-control and integrity. Since its small launch five years ago, teachers and counselors have become so convinced of the positive impact on kids’ behavior that it’s booked into the 80-classroom max it can handle, and there’s a long waiting list of requests for next year.

The curriculum, developed by ex-teacher Jo Dean Hearn, humane education director at animal rescue group Wayside Waifs, is presented an hour a day for five days by trained volunteers — accompanied by irresistible canines.

“The animals are the glue that helps the children stay focused and understand the message,” says Hearn. “Children can easily identify with an animal. And it’s easy for them to transition when we ask them to consider how an animal feels (if ill treated) to how the kid sitting near them feels (if poorly treated).”

Adds teacher Peggy Everist: “There’s a lot of specific language, like being fair, and using compassion or integrity, that plays out with the students throughout the year.”

A growing number of programs use animals to get kids’ attention while teaching respect and conflict resolution. Most are free; some charge nominal amounts to cover expenses; some help schools apply for grants to cover costs.

Mutt-i-grees, a program from the Yale University School of the 21st Century and the Pet Savers Foundation of North Shore Animal League America, is just barely out of the gate and is already in 900 schools in 28 states. The curriculum consists of at least 25 age-appropriate 30-minute lessons, each aimed at building social and emotional skills.

Real animals aren’t necessarily in the classroom (though some teachers invite therapy dogs, and many visit shelters). Teachers use dog-shaped hand puppets as instructional aides for younger grades; animals are the pivot point of lessons; and there’s information about keeping safe around dogs developed with dog trainer Cesar Millan, whose foundation pledged $1 million.

To read the entire article, click here.