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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 the skills learned in the classroom, 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 civic-minded. 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 norma.meek@muttigrees.org.

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