The Mutt-i-grees Curriculum is unique, bridging social and emotional learning (SEL) and humane education.
Pets make us happy, and pets in the classroom mean a happier learning community. Research shows that human-animal interactions create calmer, better-focused, more social students. In fact, the presence of a pet — even in the form of a video, book, photo, or toy — leads to laughter, conversation, and excitement. Pets bring us together, and Mutt-i-grees — or shelter pets — contribute something unique to the equation. As living, loving lessons in resilience and hope, they are models of transformation. Across the country, students, educators, and parents alike are falling in love with Mutt-i-grees!
Mutt-i-grees educators see the difference
A deeper understanding of each other and shelter pets
A higher level of empathy and pro-social behaviors
A more positive school climate
A heightened interest in learning and academics
Mutt-i-grees educators from New York to California agree. They know that even reading, talking, or thinking about pets calms students and helps them focus. Calmer classrooms mean more learning, more retention, and less bullying. In addition, research and experience show that pets can reach special-needs students when other means fail.
The Mutt-i-grees Curriculum integrates five themes fundamental to social-emotional learning.
When children develop an awareness of themselves as unique individuals with specific emotional, behavioral, and physical traits, they’ve taken the first step toward recognizing their membership in a larger whole, whether it’s a family, a classroom, a school, or a society. The Curriculum supports this process with lessons that encourage self-acceptance, that help students identify their strengths and limitations, and that give them the insight to appreciate who they are. Students also learn about the traits that make pets individuals.
Emotions are crucial to learning and living. The Curriculum provides tools that help students identify, manage, and communicate their emotions. They learn to use verbal and non-verbal cues to recognize feelings in themselves and others — including in pets — and to find the words to express those feelings, to ask for help, to be understood, and to have their needs met. Understanding feelings leads to the ability to handle stress, control impulses, and solve problems. Children explore their natural affinity for pets and discover the world of emotions they share.
Recognizing and respecting the feelings and thoughts of others — especially those different from oneself — is basic to both compassion and cooperation. The Curriculum’s focus on empathy — and how thoughts and actions affect others — provides a powerful anti-bullying tool. Students also explore the value of empathy as a way to develop trust and self-respect. The Curriculum helps connect these powerful lessons to the lives of homeless pets, teaching children the vital connection between feeling empathy and taking action to make a difference.
Trust, communication, self-confidence, responsibility — all bolster teamwork and cooperation. By providing practical group exercises and activities, by stressing the value of diverse perspectives and ideas, and by teaching communication skills — including the art of listening — the Curriculum provides fundamentals that advance both developmental and academic success. Students also learn how relationships with pets thrive when there’s respect, affection, and teamwork. And in many cases, students practice teamwork and cooperation by forming groups to help shelter pets in their communities.
Dealing With Decisions
Decisions at any point in life can have powerful, long-term repercussions. Using age-appropriate role-playing and real-life situations, the Curriculum teaches a variety of strategies to help children learn the skills necessary to prevent and resolve conflict, to curb impulsiveness, and eventually to make ethical, informed decisions that serve themselves and others — including pets and the environment. Children develop the confidence to trust themselves to make good decisions in real time, a skill that can influence everything from making friends to resisting peer pressure.
Recognized as a leading SEL Program
The Mutt-i-grees Curriculum has been chosen to be a part of hundrED’s inspiring innovations in education 2018.
HundrED is an initiative to find innovative, impactful and scalable practices in education from around the world. Read more.
A Harvard University research study, Navigating SEL from the Inside Out: Looking Inside & Across 25 Leading SEL Programs, found The Mutt-i-grees Curriculum to be one of the most impactful programs teaching social and emotional skills.
The report is designed to help schools and out-of-school-time programs better understand the content of SEL approaches within and across a wide variety of programs that can be used with elementary school-aged children. Read more.
“I’ve always considered the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum an asset because it meets the social and emotional needs of the students. But when I saw the impact of actually incorporating dogs and puppies into the classroom, a light bulb went off.”PRINCIPAL TERRI AHEARNBROOKLYN, N.Y.
“The Curriculum focuses on empathy and the understanding of another person’s thoughts and feelings. This has helped the faculty to better understand where the students are coming from emotionally, as these feelings have a direct impact on the student’s decision-making and behaviors.”DR. KIMBERLY C. HARTLAGEJEFFERSONVILLE, IN
“This is much more than a dog-in-the-classroom program… Most kids have an instinctive, positive emotional connection to animals. This program recognizes that connection and meets the kids where they are…”MIGUEL A. CARDONA, EDDMERIDEN, CT
“I was delighted to have implemented it. It created an interest in shelter pets, while teaching social and emotional skills. It helped my students’ engagement in the classroom, created a higher interest in shelter pets, and taught the importance of giving back to the community.”SHANNA FLETCHER, 5th GRADE READING TEACHERBIXBY, OK