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Mutt-i-grees® in the News Winter 2016

Dear Colleagues,

This year promises to be a fantastic one, and we have lots of news to share with you! Students at schools and libraries across the country are making a difference in their communities and we are so excited to share their stories. In addition, we are working on some fun Mutt-i-grees challenges and events to keep you and your students engaged, so please stay in touch for the latest updates and resources. Here's to a great 2016!


What's Happening at Mutt-i-grees Schools & Libraries

New York Public Library Embraces Mutt-i-grees Programming

Thanks to the support of Caitlyn Colman-McGaw, programming assistant for young adult education and engagement at New York Public Library, branches across the boroughs are joining our Mutt-i-grees in the Library initiative and introducing children, teens, and families to the importance of shelter pet adoption. Over the next few months, our team will be collaborating with librarians at nearly a dozen sites in the city's library system to offer Mutt-i-grees programming that promotes social and emotional skills, such as self-awareness, decision-making, and cooperation. Lauren Bradley, young adult librarian at the George Bruce Branch Library, has been pleased with the engagement by her teen patrons, noting that Mutt-i-grees programs have the highest attendance for this age group she's seen in a long time. To learn more about our Mutt-i-grees in the Library initiative and see what other libraries are doing to make a difference in the lives of homeless pets in their communities, please visit http://www.education.muttigrees.org/library.


Mutt-i-grees Students Volunteer at Local Spay/Neuter Clinic

Students from the M.U.T.T.S. Clubs at Clinton and South Side schools in Van Buren County, AR, volunteered their time this fall at a mobile spay/neuter clinic in their community. This service learning project allowed students to put empathy into action as they assisted local veterinarians to comfort and care for animals before and after their procedures and the students are excited to host another clinic in the spring. Now established in all three junior high schools and high schools in Van Buren County, M.U.T.T.S. Clubs are thriving. Members have sponsored adoptathons for local animal shelters, volunteered at local shelters and rescue centers, helped with mobile spay/neuter clinics, and participated in many service learning activities in their communities. Inspired by these motivated, understanding, and thoughtful teenage students, other schools, libraries, and museums around the country have created their own M.U.T.T.S. Clubs to collaborate for the benefit of Mutt-i-grees.

If your school has a M.U.T.T.S. Club, we want to hear from you! Share your story with us at [email protected].


Mutt-i-grees Curriculum Expands in Arizona

Echo Mountain Primary School Regional TrainingIn December, the Mutt-i-grees team presented alongside students and educators from Echo Mountain Primary School, Union Elementary School, and Gilbert School District at a regional training in Phoenix, AZ. The training, which was organized by Grand Canyon University, provided attendees with an overview of the research base for the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum and offered suggestions on how to begin effective implementation, including how to use the lessons in a school library setting. Among the attendees were PreK-12 teachers and afterschool program coordinators, along with therapy dog/handler teams. A special thank you to all the students and educators who shared their success stories and also to Echo Mountain Primary School for hosting this fantastic event! If your school is interested in hosting a Mutt-i-grees regional training, please contact us at [email protected].


Long Island School Fosters a Love of Mutt-i-grees

Meet the "Zoo Crew" from St. Martin De Porres Marianist School in Long Island, NY! These awesome 5th graders are responsible for the care of the school's birds, fish, and turtle, as well as the school dogs, which are a part of North Shore Animal League America's Mutt-igree Foster Program. The school's headmaster, John Holian, who has trained and fostered three dogs through the program so far, has embraced the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum completely and truly believes that students learn best when they are engaged in hands-on, experiential activities, especially those that involve animals. In fact, it wouldn't be unusual to run into the school's resident tortoise in the hallway! Because of their ongoing involvement our Mutt-igrees programs, St. Martin students have become regular participants in our Mutt-igrees internship at the Animal League. We look forward to working with them again this summer!


Mutt-i-grees Retreat Connects Students to Their Communities

The lessons in the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum teach critical social and emotional skills, which in turn, help students to connect with their peers, the educators and administrators at their schools, and their communities as a whole. As a way to reinforce these skills, Norma Meek, Mutt-i-grees Educational Consultant and National Peer Trainer, conceptualized a new initiative focused on community engagement: the Mutt-i-grees retreat. She collaborated with educators in Van Buren County, AR and Boyd County, KY to pilot the program this fall, with fantastic results.

Each school district selected eight students to participate in the retreat, which took place in October 2015. The students involved were given unique opportunities to learn about their county's municipal departments, historic landmarks, and civic organizations during the day-long field trip. In Kentucky, the retreat included an educational tour of the county courthouse, a visit to the local animal shelter, and a behind-the-scenes look at an area historical theater. The funding for the day's travel was graciously provided by the district's superintendent, a testament to his dedication to the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum! To make the experience more meaningful, each student received a journal in which to record their thoughts and reflections as they traveled from place to place throughout the day. The students shared their observations with the group at the day's end and each was delighted with the experience. As a follow-up, they organized a service learning project to benefit Ashland Animal Rescue Fund.

In Arkansas, their retreat began with a tour of a local veterinarian's office, followed by a meeting with the president of a local bank, who spoke to students about the importance of being civicminded. They were then treated to lunch with the mayor, who commended the students for the work they do to benefit the community. After a visit to the local animal shelter, where the students bathed and walked dogs, they visited a city park and learned about what it takes to maintain this valuable natural resource. They plan to return to the park in the spring to help seed new plants and beautify the walking path. The group is planning a service project this winter to benefit the local food bank.

Norma declared the pilot program an overwhelming success and she hopes to involved more schools around the country in the coming year. "The retreat offered these students a unique and memorable experience," she explains. "We are preparing the next generation of community leaders and the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum provides the tools to help students succeed."

If you are interested in piloting a Mutt-i-grees retreat at your school, please contact Norma Meek at [email protected].


News From the Mutt-i-grees Team

Presenting the 2015-16 Mutt-i-grees National Student Ambassadors

Congratulations to this year's class of Mutt-i-grees National Student Ambassadors: Gracie Kate Lee of Clinton, AR; Ragan Fletcher of Bixby, OK; Juliana Bonavero of Brooklyn, NY; Sarah J. Alonso of Long Island, NY; Layne Meek of Ashland, KY; and Tionnah White of Brooklyn, NY!

Selected from a group of students in some of the most effective Mutt-i-grees schools and clubs in the country, Mutt-i-grees ambassadors spend the academic year working on various animal welfare, humane education, and service learning projects of their choosing, with a goal to inspire other students and community members. Last year's inaugural class set the bar high; in fact, they were honored for their efforts at North Shore Animal League America's Get Your Rescue On Gala in New York City this November, where they were presented with Crystal Collar awards by Animal League National Spokesperson, Beth Stern.

If any of the students you work with are especially dedicated to helping animals in your community, we hope you'll encourage them to apply to our ambassadors program! Applications for 2016-17 school year will open in the spring. For more information, please visit www.education.muttigrees.org/student-ambassadors.


Mutt-i-grees in the Library Identifies Four National Exemplary Sites

We are delighted to announce the designation of four Mutt-i-grees in the Library national demonstration sites, highlighting libraries, museums, and afterschool programs that are implementing Mutt-i-grees programming in fun and impactful ways. This year's honorees include Stepping Stones Museum for Children (Norwalk, CT), Randall Library (Stow, MA), Middle Country Public Library (Centereach, NY), and Herr Memorial Library (Mifflinburg, PA). Congratulations to these very deserving organizations and keep up all the great work you are doing to help children and Mutt-i-grees in your communities!


Coming Soon: 2016 Mission Mutt-i-grees Challenge

Each spring, North Shore Animal League America's national adoption initiative, Tour For Life, embarks on a mission to find homes for as many pets as possible. Culminating in Pet Adoptathon, Tour For Life kicks off a season of compassion and caring as Animal League America's mobile units partner with rescue groups and shelters for adoption events in cities across the country. Stay tuned for more information about how your students can help make this the most successful year yet by participating in our Mission Mutt-i-grees challenge!


What We're Reading

New York Times bestselling author and North Shore Animal League America foster parent, volunteer, and national spokesperson Beth Stern is back with another inspiring story, as Buddy the blind foster kitten joins Yoda and his friends for a heart-warming adventure! This picture book is best for students in preK - grade 3, and we're happy to say that all proceeds from the book's sales benefit Bianca's Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center, a state-of-the-art felinefocused center at North Shore Animal League America. For more adorable stories featuring Yoda and the Stern's many fosters, be sure to follow Beth and her kittens on Instagram!


New Resources

Physical fitness contributes to our ability to regulate moods and exercise is a powerful tool to alleviate stress. Our newest initiative, Paws Down, Tails Up with Mutt-i-grees, contains fun physical activities and games that are easily adaptable for various age levels. It is designed to be used in conjunction with the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum and its ancillary publications or as a freestanding program in schools, YMCAs, afterschool programs, or summer camps. To order, please visit www.education.muttigrees.org/paws-down-tails-up.

Looking for a new classroom management technique? Join the coloring book craze! Creating art can be therapeutic and coloring can help focus the mind. Our cat and dog coloring pages can be used with students of all ages to promote a sense of calm. Another option - use to add some color to your next professional development day! To download, please visit www.education.muttigrees.org/downloads.

To order any of our other binders and resources, please visit www.education.muttigrees.org/order.


Keeping You Informed

Should Kindness Count in College Applications?

A new report released this month by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, addresses an interesting topic in the world of education: the college application process. Too often, the report asserts, today's culture sends young people messages that emphasize personal success rather than concern for others and the common good. And, the report continues, the college admissions process, which involves admissions offices, guidance counselors, parents, and many other stakeholders, contributes to this problem. Their solution? The report makes the case that colleges can powerfully collaborate to send different messages to high school students about what colleges value. According to The Washington Post, many universities have already modified their admissions practices as a result of the report's findings. So, what does this mean to you as a Mutt-i-gree educator? Helping your students find sustained - and meaningful - community service opportunities where they can be fully engaged in a cause that is important to them may be more beneficial than ever!


New Study Examines Dogs' Prosocial Behaviors

Kindness and generosity - voluntary actions that benefit others - are seen as positive character traits in humans, of course, but to what extent do these prosocial behaviors exist in other animals? A study by researchers in Austria suggests that dogs are prosocial among their own kind too, with an experiment involving the voluntary offering of food between the animals showing that dogs understand the concept of giving. While it seems more investigation is needed to fully explore the subject, we continue to be fascinated by emerging research in human-animal interaction!


Early SEL Intervention Makes a Difference

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health tracked the progress of more than 700 students over a 20 year period to understand the relationship between early social-emotional functioning and public health. Researchers found that early social competence coincided with higher college graduation rates, fewer incidences of criminal activity, and a greater chance at finding full-time jobs by the time the participants turned 25. In the study, kindergartners were rated by their teachers on traits such as kindness and sharing. Children scoring highest in social skills were up to four times more likely to become successful adults, clearly supporting our affirmation that early intervention has an impact on future success.


Stay Connected: Upcoming Conferences and Trainings

January 28, 2016
Presentation to American Association of University Women
Port Washington, NY

February 25, 2016
Professional Development for School Counselors
Brooklyn, NY

March 4, 2016
Missouri School Counselor Association Conference
St. Louis, MO

March 20-23, 2016
National Afterschool Alliance Conference
Orlando, FL

March-April 2016
Mutt-i-grees Curriculum Certificate Program - Queens College
Flushing, NY

For more information, please visit http://education.muttigrees.org/professional-development.