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Mutt-i-grees® in the News Winter 2017

Dear Friends,

2016 was a banner year for Mutt-i-grees, as you'll read in what follows - and 2017 promises to be an exceptional year as well. Just a few of the things we're currently working on will give you a heads-up of what you can expect:

ONE: We're revamping the Mutt-i-grees website. Education.muttigrees.org will still be the way to link to the website, but after that - all will be new! Carol and Tamara are on board, redesigning the website and making the content more easily accessible and relevant to different users: teachers, librarians, administrators, parents, students, and funders.

TWO: We'll be posting Mutt-i-grees lessons on the website. But there will be one exciting change: The lesson plans will be interactive! Jordan Brown has joined the team and is hard at work making the lessons interactive. You'll no longer have to search for readings, activity resources, or a special video to complement a lesson; a quick click will lead you to exactly what you need.

In the weeks ahead we'll be user-testing the interactive lessons with teachers in Mutt-i-grees schools as well as with teachers who have not yet used the Curriculum. Interested in joining the user-test team? Contact Jordan via email at [email protected].

THREE: Mutt-i-grees at Home is a new program designed specifically for parents. Many parents in Mutt-i-grees schools have weighed in on the development of the program. It will have its own tab on the website, will be accessible to all families, and will include monthly e-follow-ups, coordinated by Mutt-i-grees newcomer Valerie Law. For more information, contact Valerie via email at [email protected].

Of course, the most important aspect of the website will still be the information, resources, and stories you share with us. To this end, we've appointed a new team member, Max Eisenberg, dedicated to growing the Mutt-i-grees website and our presence on social media. Max can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 516.883.7900, ext 301.

What did we do in 2016? We have lots of news. Students at schools and libraries across the country are working hard to share their Mutt-i-grees lessons with their communities, and we're excited to let you in on their progress.


Meet Our Formidable Mutt-i-grees Ambassadors!

We're proud to introduce our brand new squad of talented, enthusiastic National Mutt-i-grees Student Ambassadors. This is our biggest group yet: 14 animal-loving animal advocates who are ready to start changing the future today. Bursting with ideas and idealism, they're already at work on a busy 2017.

Selected from a group of students in some of the most effective Mutt-i-grees schools and clubs in the country, Mutt-i-grees National Student Ambassadors spend the academic year working on animal welfare, humane education, and service learning projects of their choosing, with a goal to inspire other students and community members. Although last year's ambassadors set the bar high, we're certain that this year's class will leave their mark, too. So a big welcome to these motivated young leaders - we can't wait to see what you accomplish this year!

Please click here to meet the ambassadors.

To learn more about our National Student Ambassadors Program and how your students can get involved, please click here.


Young Innovators Help Mutt-i-grees in New York Public Libraries

Our Mutt-i-grees team has been busy developing a strong relationship with one of the largest libraries in the country, the New York Public Library.

We've worked in several boroughs to coordinate Mutt-i-grees activities that save pets and inspire kids from preschool through high school, including students in special programs. One exciting project involved students from the library's Middle School Innovation Labs program, a free afterschool program in which kids learn new skills and create high-tech presentations in various media. With access to state-of-the-art equipment, they can roduce sophisticated videos, create digital music, and record and edit podcasts. As one student put it, "Here I get to be innovative and actually do something with my life."

One thing the students decided to do was partner with Mutt-i-grees to help spread the word about North Shore Animal League America's no-kill mission and the plight of homeless pets.

To simulate a professional atmosphere, the Mutt-i-grees team assumed the role of "clients" who wanted a multi-media/research-based project highlighting shelter pets. The students took it from there, producing robust podcasts, videos, photos, and blogs on rescue and adoption.

Three city libraries participated in the project - George Bruce, Westchester Square, and West Farms - which culminated in a December celebration at The Bronx Science Center, with nearly 100 students, families, teachers, and library staff in attendance. The event not only demonstrated the strength of the partnership, but also showcased the students' work and the Curriculum's mission. We'll soon share the finished projects on our media channels for the entire Mutt-i-grees community to view.


The New York Times and Purina ONE® Highlight the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum's Power to Change Lives

In October, millions of The New York Times readers learned about the power of the Curriculum via an informative, entertaining, and moving "advert" that presents highlights, interviews, and videos. It's unforgettable, and we thank our friends at Purina for making this happen. See it here.

Last year, the Times ran a similar piece, also thanks to Purina, focused on North Shore Animal League America and "The New Shelter Dog." In case you didn't see it, take a look here. It's never too late to feel inspired.


Poetry + Perseverance = Making a Difference for Oklahoma's Homeless Pets

Denise Swarowsky teaches math at the Curtis Inge Middle School, in Noble, Okla. She also advises the school's MUTTS Club/Animal Poetry Club. Kim Fairbanks is president of Hands Helping Paws, Inc., a nonprofit, no-kill Mutt-i-grees cat rescue group, also in Noble. Together, these energetic, creative, and determined women are bringing Mutt-i-grees values into their small, rural community. Read about their successes and goals by clicking here.


New York Mutt-i-grees Team Builds Bridges Between Homeless Dogs and Homeless Families

Located in Bronx, N.Y., Bridge Haven Transitional Family Residence provides families with a temporary place to stay while they work to acquire permanent housing and return to the community. Throughout 2016, the Mutt-i-grees team made regular visits to Bridge Haven to introduce children and families to some of North Shore Animal League America's puppies while engaging in various Mutt-i-grees activities. The goal is to teach and expand the children's social and emotional skills while demonstrating the importance of responsible pet care and shelter adoption.

"We plan our visits for 5 p.m.," says Jayne Vitale, Director of Outreach and Youth Development Programs at Animal League America. "This is when families are returning home, tired and eager to get to their apartments. But once they see the puppies, the kids are always eager to participate. Often the parents are reluctant to let their children interact with the dogs. But little by little we speak with them, walk over with the dog, and before you know it they're taking off their coats and playing side-by-side with their children. A moment is created that probably wouldn't have happened otherwise - parents taking a few minutes to work with their children – to communicate, collaborate, smile. They've made posters that have been displayed in the shelter, and the pups have been adopted. Due to the success of the program we were invited back for 2017."


Mutt-i-grees Classroom Canines Steal the Show - And More than a Few Hearts - At North Shore Animal League America's Gala 2016

Three accomplished Mutt-i-grees who work in schools took center stage during North Shore Animal League America's spectacular Get Your Rescue On® Gala, on Nov. 18, at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, in Manhattan. Accompanied by their adopters, these Animal League America "graduates" represented all the Mutt-i-gree dogs and cats across the country who visit classrooms every day to help students discover their deep connections with animals and each other while spreading the no-kill message.

Shelby, adopted by teacher Denise Atwood, is a beloved part of life at Shell Bank Junior High School, in Brooklyn, N.Y. Bleu (pronounced "Blue") is a 120-pound Lab-Mastiff mix who works with his adopters, Marian and Ben Savio, at the Children's Psychiatric Inpatient Unit, Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, in New Haven, Conn. And Red, who "adopted" Peter and Joan Mansfield in Nov. 2015, is a natural stress reliever for students and teachers alike at St. Martin DePorres Marianist School, in Uniondale, N.Y.

All the dogs received a handsome silver bowl in recognition of their dedication and service, including several pups who were unable to attend the Gala. Billy Jackson, Superintendent of the Bee Branch, Arkansas School District, accepted the award for Dixie; Toni Frear, School Counselor at the Fenton Charter Schools in the Los Angeles area, accepted the award for Jeter; Yuka Dawson, teacher, and Cristina Sosa, Dog Program Instructor at MercyFirst, a residential treatment center for at-risk teens in Syosset, N.Y., accepted awards for Totoro and Brody. In addition, Cheryl A. Lee, Project Management Coordinator for Community Affairs at Purina, accepted the award for Support Dogs and CHAMP Assistance Dogs, two organizations that our friends at Purina work with to bring even more dogs into Mutt-i-grees classrooms.

Mutt-i-grees and the New York City Department of Education Introduce Comfort Dog Initiative

Using the Curriculum as a guide, seven schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens have started an exciting new pilot program that incorporates the use of dogs from North Shore Animal League America as comfort/therapy dogs in their classrooms. Launched in mid-December, this pilot is based on research conducted during the past 30 years demonstrating that therapy dogs can offer social-emotional and physical support for children. To read what the city's Department of Education had to say about the Curriculum and the impact it's already having on students, adoptions, and classroom climate, click here.


The Power of Networking

Collaborative efforts initiated by educators in their own communities are a vital part of the growth of the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum. Such efforts also contribute to professional growth and teacher satisfaction.

We heard from Deb Swink that she and her team in Arkansas hosted a Mutt-i-grees Open House and were visited by school districts in their community that have since signed on to become Mutt-i-grees schools. Also in Arkansas, Judy Clay is establishing a network of Mutt-i-grees early childhood programs.

In California, where we began with a handful of schools, expansion is taking place in part because the Fenton School expanded its reach and the number of charter schools under its umbrella. Jeter, one of the first school dogs adopted to complement the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum, and his owner, school counselor Toni Frear, visit all the new schools. At Fenton Primary School, the director, Barbara Aragon established collaborations with Reading Is Fundamental and hosted its first National Mutt-i-grees Day on Dec. 2, 2016. The celebration involved 800 students and included the showcasing of Mutt-i-grees lessons by several of the teachers. Also, at Fenton Primary, lead Mutt-i-grees teacher Crystal Carpenter facilitated the school's collaboration with an animal shelter in Burbank. And in Oklahoma, teacher Denise Swarowsky, from Noble, and ambassador Shanna Fletcher, from Bixby, are planning to meet to discuss ways to collaborate with other schools in the state.

If you are planning similar collaborations, please let us know via email at [email protected]. We can help make this happen!


Coming Up

Mission Mutt-i-grees
Get ready for a different sort of March madness! Once again, we'll launch our Mission Mutt-i-grees in conjunction with Tour For Life®, which takes off in March. Mission Mutt-i-grees is designed to be a grassroots effort to raise awareness, generate adoptions, educate communities, and raise funds for local shelters. Schools, libraries, and afterschool programs have come up with great events and activities during the last three years, and we want to build on your momentum to make 2017 even more fun and effective! Click here for details on Mission Mutt-i-grees.

After School National Survey
Researchers at the Wallace Foundation and Harvard University spent the past year surveying programs for After School. The Mutt-i-grees Curriculum was selected as one of a handful of highly effective programs. The programs will be listed in a publication that is due to be out in March. As soon as we receive a copy we will let you all know, so stay tuned!


Professional Development Conferences/Workshops

January 26, 2017
Northwest LASE Meeting
Maryville, Mo.

January 29, 2017
Mutt-i-grees Workshop
Sunday with the Sanctuary
In Honor of Catherine Violet Hubbard
Edmond Town Hall
Newtown, Conn.

February 2, 2017
Mutt-i-grees in the Library Workshop
NYPL - Morningside Heights Library
New York, N.Y.

For additional dates click here.