Skip navigation

Mutt-i-grees® in the News Fall 2014

Dear Colleagues,
We hope you are off to a wonderful start to the 2014-2015 school year! We begin this newsletter with a focus on cats and hope you can join us in celebrating the month of CATober. North Shore Animal League America has declared the ninth day of October the universal birthday for shelter and rescue cats everywhere, so be sure to honor your feline friends today!

Students from Weber Middle School and MercyFirst in Long Island, NY are celebrating shelter cats with a special CATober 9th ceremony. The students held a donation drive to collect much needed items from the Animal League's wish list and will present their donations at the event. You can celebrate the month of CATober in your community by encouraging your students to help cats at your local shelters. And don't forget to share your projects with us!

What's Happening
Meet the 2014-2015 Mutt-i-grees Student Ambassadors

Teens around the country are getting involved in the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum in various ways: by starting afterschool clubs, becoming mentors to younger students, and participating in a variety of service learning projects. Beginning this year, we will be highlighting the work that young people are doing on behalf of shelter animals with the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum Student Ambassadors Program. As leaders in their middle schools, the inaugural class of Mutt-i-grees Student Ambassadors - Ragan Fletcher, Layne Meek, and Madalyn Pennington - showed maturity, empathy, and a willingness to work hard for animals in their communities. Now, as freshmen in high school, they've pledged to take their commitment to a higher level. Not only do they plan to establish Mutt-i-grees clubs on their campuses, they also want to involve more and more students while reaching into their local communities to work with shelters, rescue groups, and governments. To learn more about the Mutt-i-grees Student Ambassadors program and see updates from Layne, Ragan, and Maddy, please visit

A Fun (and Effective) Approach to Implementation

At Northaven Elementary School in Jeffersonville, IN, Susan Botts, Inclusion Coordinator, and Edna Logsdon, Library Clerk, have teamed-up at in a collaborative effort to implement the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum during students' library time each week. Northaven Elementary uses the Curriculum to fulfill the need for a school-wide social skills curriculum for students in grades K-5. Ms. Logsdon keeps thirty stuffed dogs at a "shelter shelf" in the library. When students come to see her, they are able to "adopt" a dog for the class period and read to it during their library visit. Ms. Logsdon explains to the students that some of the dogs may have been abandoned on the side of the road, some may have been abused, and some may have been born in the shelter, but they all need to be loved. She reminds students to hug and pet the stuffed animals gently; if they mistreat the dog, they have to take it back to the shelter.

According to Ms. Logsdon, using the Curriculum in this way really helps to engage students. Northaven Elementary loves Mutt-i-grees and students are asking their teachers when they will get to go to library to hear more about the dogs. Furthermore, students are getting more excited about reading! Ms. Logsdon says that students are beginning to check out all the books in the library that are about dogs. The library will need to buy many new dog books to fill this need, which is a great problem to have.

Ms. Logsdon loves teaching the Curriculum. She explains: "I am proud to say that I am a dog lover. I like to tell stories of my own three dogs, who have different personalities and have their own distinct role in my family. The kids get excited and want to share their own stories. I try to make them see that like people, dogs are unique and special: different looks and characteristics, personalities, and attitudes. Dogs are also resilient and forgiving. I think that learning to respect animals should teach us how to respect others as well."

Keeping You Informed
The Changing Face of the Classroom: How Mutt-i-grees Can Help

The National Center for Education Statistics projects that, this fall, the collective majority of minority schoolchildren in public K-12 classrooms will rise to 50.3 percent. That means that for the first time ever, the overall number of African-American, Asian, Latino and Native American students will exceed the number of Caucasian students in American classrooms. Although anticipated and already occurring in a number of large urban communities, this trend poses a host of new challenges for educators.

Because the vast majority of American teachers are non-Hispanic whites, most educators across the country will now be instructing a majority of students from ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds very different from their own. As such, they'll need to identify a point of commonality on which they and their students can relate. Dogs and cats offer the perfect solution because animals bridge cultures, classes and generations; appealing to people of all backgrounds, especially children. Each lesson in the Curriculum offers an opportunity for students to connect with both their teachers and their fellow students over a shared love of animals, and a classroom united by common interests is one much more conducive to learning. To learn more, please visit

Did You Know?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation now considers animal abuse a crime, providing much needed leverage to enforce laws that protect animals. Also, beginning this year, the New York City Police Department took over responsibility for animal abuse complaints and created an Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad. According to a recent report, this resulted in a 250 percent increase in arrests for animal abuse through September 2014, compared with the same period last year. Are there laws in place to protect animals in your community? Investigate with your students and encourage them to take action.

Reading Online - Is There a Downside?

As you're reading online - on your phone or computer - do you notice yourself skimming over paragraphs or searching for key words? Researchers say this is becoming more and more common and it may be impacting the amount of information we are able to comprehend. In an article published earlier this year, Maryanne Wolf, a cognitive neuroscientist at Tufts University and one of the world's foremost experts on the study of reading , explains, "I worry that the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing." Wolf says she has received numerous emails from teachers around the country complaining that their students are having trouble reading classic texts. What do you think? Do you notice a change in your students' reading comprehension?

Behind the Scenes

What We're Reading:
How Dogs Love Us by Gregory Berns

Have you ever wondered what your dog is thinking? Neuroscientist - and proud owner of a rescue dog - Gregory Berns decided to find out. He and his colleagues at Emory University conducted an experiment called "The Dog Project," in which they collected hundreds of MRI scans from dogs in their natural states to learn more about the dog-human relationship from the dog's perspective. This fascinating book examines interspecies social intelligence and the capacity of dogs to demonstrate empathy and love. Intrigued? Check it out from your local library!

October is Bullying Prevention Month

Bullying - known to be associated with anxiety, depression, and poor academic performance - is a concern for many educators. A symposium on the topic was recently held by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, bringing together leaders involved in bullying prevention. The proceedings are
published in a report,"Building Capacity to Reduce Bullying and Its Impact on Youth Across the Lifecourse." To view a video on the use of the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum in bullying prevention and intervention, please visit Also, check out the 2012 Mutt-i-grees "America Adopts" PSA Contest grand prize winning video, "Everybody Needs a Friend," created by Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School in Port Washington, NY:

Meet the Mutt-i-grees Team

We're growing! Our outreach and development team is here to support your efforts, so please don't hesitate to reach out to each of us below with any questions or concerns:
Christina Capatides, Mutt-i-grees Content and Editorial Manager
Kay Hammerson, Mutt-i-grees Program Manager & Mutt-i-grees Librarian
Byron Logan, Director of Corporate & National Shelter Relationships
Norma Meek, National Peer Trainer & Mutt-i-grees Educational Consultant
Ikumi Nakajima, Mutt-i-grees Outreach Coordinator
Jayne Vitale, Mutt-i-grees Outreach & Youth Development Programming Manager

New Publications: Available Upon Request

A companion to the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum, Cats are Mutt-i-grees 2 is all about cats - their amazing skills and characteristics, how they communicate with us, and what we can learn from them. Included are Cat Dialog feature lessons, crafts and activities for younger students, and Cat Club activities for older students. It can be used in conjunction with the Curriculum or as a free-standing program. To reserve your copy, please contact us at [email protected].


Humane educators and staff at animal shelters have been asking for ways they can become involved with the Mutt-igrees Curriculum. Good news: The Animal Shelter Guide to the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum, which includes an overview of the Curriculum and activities humane educators and shelter staff may implement, is now available! If you are working with an animal shelter in your community and want to make sure that they receive a copy, please ask shelter staff to contact Jayne Vitale at [email protected].

Check it Out: The Mutt-i-grees Virtual Internship

As a Mutt-i-grees educator, you are automatically granted access to the Mutt-i-grees Virtual Internship, an exciting new learning resource that provides a behind-the-scenes look at the operations of the world's largest no-kill animal shelter and illustrates the links between humane education and social-emotional learning. To access the Mutt-i-grees Virtual Internship, please visit

Stay Connected: Upcoming Conferences and Trainings

November 8, 2014
NYC United Federation of Teachers

United Federation of Teachers
52 Broadway, 19th floor
New York, NY
November 11, 2014
Family Resource Youth Services Centers
Fall Institute Conference

Galt House East
Louisville, KY
November 13, 2014
NYC School Library System 25th Annual
Fall Conference

Citi Field, 123-01 Roosevelt Avenue
Flushing, NY
November 17, 2014
Level II Training: From Research to

Yale University
310 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT
November 21, 2014
Level I Training: Mutt-i-grees
Orientation & Basic Training

Northport High School
154 Laurel Hill Road
Northport, NY
December 8, 2014
NJAHPERD Health Education

"Empowering Mind, Body & Spirit"
Crowne Plaza Hotel
Monroe, NJ
December 10, 2014
Level I Training: Mutt-i-grees
Orientation & Basic Training

PS 256 - MercyFirst
525 Convent Road
Syosset, NY
March 5, 2015
Level I Training: Mutt-i-grees
Orientation & Basic Training

Middle Country Public Library Selden
575 Middle Country Road
Selden, NY
March 27, 2015
2015 New York Library Association-
Youth Services Section Conference

Islandia Marriot Long Island
Islandia, New York

Please visit our website for updates:

We want to hear from you! Share your students' projects and writing assignments with us at [email protected].