Dogs and Students – Classroom Teaching

photoWhat does it take for children to learn? The answer is that it varies from child to child. Teachers and administrators dedicate their lives to get lessons across, but sometimes it takes a special spark to ignite a child’s love of learning. This is why some schools have turned to unconventional methods to reach their students. Here are some examples of out of the box teaching techniques:

Facility Dogs

In some classrooms, students learn important lessons from canines. Especially trained facility dogs help children learn several tasks, ranging from overcoming fears to practicing patience and perseverance, from speaking and interacting to listening and following directions. Kids with special needs particularly benefit from working with a facility dog every day. Brushing the animal, taking him for walks, and playing fetch all help to develop gross motor skills and decrease stress levels in the classroom. Children who have difficulty with social interaction can also find a supportive friend in a service dog.

Canine Companions for Independence is an organization that breeds, raises, and trains canines to work as service dogs for the disabled. They also send facility dogs to classrooms around the country, where teachers are taught how to employ their dog in the classroom – they practice everything from math using dog food measurements to writing with the animal as a subject. Dogs are great for teaching because they provide a very calming effect.

Babies on Board

Roots of Empathy is a Canadian non-profit group that also operates in the US. Their mission is to reduce bullying in schools, and they use an interesting strategy – their program involves students learning about empathy from a baby!

Each class is assigned an infant who visits occasionally with a parent. Students become emotionally attached to the little one as they learn about infant development and care, caring interaction, and emotional literacy. Kids who have undergone the program usually transfer the affection they develop for the baby to an emotional awareness for their peers. Teachers have observed that students become more caring, connected, and aware of others after completing the program. Learning about a baby teaches them to read a person’s emotions via facial clues, renounce control over people and events, and most importantly, think about others.

Breaking Down Age Barriers

The Intergenerational School is an inner-city charter school in Cleveland, Ohio, with a premise that learning is a lifelong venture and happens best through community collaboration. There, it’s not unusual to see young students working with older volunteers, including some who have Alzheimer’s disease. The volunteers, who are a vital presence at the school, mentor kids in reading, writing, hobbies, and arts.

Experts agree that for older people with dementia, volunteering and staying socially active can have a positive effect on their overall well-being. Teachers and administrators at the school feel the volunteers have plenty to offer the students as well.

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A Dog’s Purpose – From a Six-Year-Old

Enjoy this heartwarming story…photo

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle. I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience. The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on.

Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ‘I know why.’ Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation.

He said, ‘People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?’ The six-year-old continued, ‘Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.’

Live simply.
Love generously.
Care deeply.
Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

*When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
*Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
*Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
*Take naps.
*Stretch before rising.
*Run, romp, and play daily.
*Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
*Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
*On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
*On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
*When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
*Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
*Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.
*Be loyal.
*Never pretend to be something you’re not.
*If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
*When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
*Being always grateful for each new day and for the blessing you have.
*ENJOY EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY!

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A Face and Paws of National Assistance Dog Week

One of our Facebook fans and avid blog readers shared their story.  We, the team at PorchPotty, thought it was a real-life story that would touch your heart this Monday morning as we “kick-off” National Dog Assistance Week.

Thank you to Paul Harpole for sharing!

Lady and Alex

Hi I’m Lady and I am a 3 1/2 yr. old German Shepard.  I am a very special dog with a very special job.  I am a Seizure Alert Dog for my 10 yr. old best friend, Alex Harpole. Alex received me from 4 Paws For Ability 2 1/2 yrs. ago.

I go to school with Alex everyday and even ride the school bus with him!  I really enjoy my job and do a great job doing it. I am able to let Alex’s parents, Carrie and Paul, and his teachers know 45 minutes before a seizure occurs!

I am very comforting to Alex also and sleep with him after his seizures to make sure he is okay and doesn’t feel alone. I am also very comforting to Alex during the several hospital and doctors visits he has on a monthly basis and help calm his fears during these times.

Alex and I have even felt like movie stars at times! We have been to Capitol Hill to share our story with our state legislators and  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.  We have also been in spirits and on a poster 18,000 ft. to base camp on Mt. Everest!  We have been involved in 2 documentaries that are currently being entered into the National Film Festival and Emmys.  These documentaries are being used to spread awareness about Epilepsy and the jobs that special dogs like me have.

Then finally we were in a children’s book by Bearport Publishing last year called “Dog Heroes.”

Now, besides all the stardom I have really been a huge help and blessing to Alex and his whole family.  His seizures have reduced since I have been there with him, he has been able to quit wearing his protective helmet, his mommy and daddy don’t have to stay with him in his room all day just while he watched cartoons or play with his toys – he can now do that just like any other normal child with me by his side.

As for me being an Assistance Dog, I ask that this week you give an extra treat to any assistance animal you know.  We are able to perform jobs that even a human couldn’t do!

For more information on Alex’s Journey, visit here.

Paws & Kisses –

Lady Harpole

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