· It bridges SEL with humane education. The Mutt-i-grees Curriculum bridges humane education and social-emotional learning, building on children’s natural affinity for pets and providing a real-life context within which to teach social and emotional skills. Children learn about shelter pets while also acquiring skills that support their ability to cope with stress, attain self-confidence and empathy, and learn to collaborate and make informed decisions.
· It is an experiential, play-based approach, building on the notion that children learn by doing. Each lesson includes an educational/developmental objective, with hands-on activities, books, and games focusing on shelter pets. Another unique aspect to the Curriculum is that it includes out-of-school time (OST) adaptations and comprehensive support for community engagement.
· It uses a whole-child approach, incorporating social, emotional, cognitive, and physical activities.
· It is comprehensive and adaptable. All grade levels from PreK to Grades 12 are included in four separate binders: PreK-Grade 3; Grades 4-6; Grades 7-8; and Grades 9-12. These may be used as part of character education or specific initiatives such as behavioral interventions or bullying prevention. The Curriculum is often used on its own – some educators implement Mutt-i-grees Mondays, for example.
· It is a universal program suitable for all children, but because of its focus on canine-assisted activities, it is also effectively used with children with autism and developmental disorders and other special needs.
· It is based on canine-assisted activities. Students think that the focus on dogs – in particular – shelter dogs – is fun but there are serious benefits to canine-assisted activities. Studies have shown that when children are in the presence of a dog, or when they are thinking about dogs, they are calm and happy and more receptive to positive social interactions. What’s behind these positive benefits? Researchers believe it has to do with such neuro-hormones as oxytocin!