Kids reading to dogs benefits the DOGS, too!

A few weeks ago, I posted an article, Canine reading tutorsabout the growing popularity of using therapy dogs to boost children’s literacy.

Kids who read aloud to dogs never get corrected when they say a word wrong or spend time puzzling over it, and they never get hurried up if they read slowly. Instead, the dog lies next to them, warm and reassuring, and always seems to like being read to. It’s a great confidence-builder.

But could it also benefit the dogs? Perhaps surprisingly–yes! Last March, NBC News featured a story about a new idea in a St. Louis animal shelter. Kids read to dogs in the shelter, to help calm and socialize the dogs. I’m sure the extra practice didn’t hurt the kids any, either.

Here’s a video that tells a bit more about the program:

The human-canine bond is an old and mutually-beneficial one, as I’ve written before. I don’t know about you, but I loved seeing another way in which that connection is still going strong, after all these millennia. I’d also like to thank The Dodo, for its feature on this program. I happened upon this story there, first.

IMAGES: many thanks to the Huffington Post for the photo of the little girl reading to the dog, and to NBC News for the photo of the girl and the shelter dog, and YouTube, for the video about the program.

Intergenerational magic

This week’s Artdog Image(s) of Interest: 

Elders and elementary kids, reading together: bridge-building between generations helps all parties.

The “loneliness epidemic” in our society is well-documented–we may have instant communication, but “proximity, as city dwellers know, does not necessarily mean intimacy,” Olivia Laing noted in her article, “The Future of Loneliness,” in The Guardian. And loneliness hits older people hardest of all.

But I would argue that the divide hurts the younger generation, too. Divorce and separation of families to far parts of the country can disconnect grandparent-child relationships, robbing the younger generation of chances for unconditional love and a healthy perspective on aging. People deprived of experiences with stable, loving elders may grow up without empathy or compassion for the lives and value of older people, and they also may live in needless terror of aging.

All across the country, a variety of programs have developed to match elder volunteers with preschool and elementary children, often most explicitly in support of the children’s literacy–but with a broad range of “add-on” values as side effects. I can only hope this trend prospers and grows!

IMAGES: Many thanks to Native News 2014,  The Un-Retired, and Move With Balance Youth Programs for the images in this post. 

Growing knowledge in the teaching garden

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest

 Sometimes there’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty and learning from the ground up.

A parent volunteer with gardening experience works with children of all ages at the school, and helps teachers build lesson plans around their experiences in the garden.
A parent volunteer with gardening experience works with children of all ages at the Oak Hill school, and helps teachers build lesson plans around their experiences in the garden.

This little video gives a glimpse of the massive potential for tying lessons to life experiences with the Teaching Garden at a Fairfax, VA elementary school.

Oak Hill is clearly a fairly upscale neighborhood (note: they still have the Teaching Garden in the 2016-2017 school year), but schools from all different parts of the country, and all different socio-economic levels, have adopted similar programs in the last two decades.

Unless they grow up on a farm, nearly all children lack understanding about where their food comes from. This goes double for children who live in food deserts.

 

Lincoln Park in Duluth, MN is a classic food desert: their last full-service grocery store closed more than 30 years ago. Read more about it here.
Lincoln Park in Duluth, MN is a classic food desert: their last full-service grocery store closed more than 30 years ago. Read more about it here.

Food deserts, as you may know, are areas where healthy, affordable food is far away and hard to come by, especially if residents do not have convenient transportation. Food deserts all-too-frequently occur in minority communities, and can happen in both rural and urban environments. Food insecurity is everywhere.

While a vegetable garden isn’t a complete solution to a food desert, community gardens often do help address part of the problem, and students who learn how to garden in school have one more tool in their toolbox of survival skills.

Learning/teaching gardens have many lessons to teach in a variety of STEM disciplines.
Learning/teaching gardens have many lessons to teach in a variety of STEM disciplines.

Educators favor teaching gardens for other reasons, too. There’s much emphasis right now on the so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines, and yes–there are guides for teaching STEM in learning gardens. Personally, I think STEM is incomplete without STEAM (add the arts), but that’s a topic for another post.

IMAGES AND VIDEO: Many thanks to Oak Hill Elementary School of Fairfax County, VA for the image and YouTube for the video. Thanks to University of Minnesota Extension for the article about Duluth’s food desert, and to Edutopia for the image of a STEM student in a greenhouse. The accompanying article is interesting, too.

World’s best Kindergarten? Maybe so.

Perhaps you’ve heard about Fuji Kindergarten. I first learned about it from a YouTube video I no longer can find–but it’s an amazing school, and a fascinating concept.

Listen to a 2014 TED Talk by its architect creator, Takaharu Tezuka, as he explains his concept:

The Montessori approach of the educators fits well with the open classrooms and the children’s freedom of movement.

One favorite activity at Fuji School is climbing on the tree with the cargo nets.
One favorite activity at Fuji School is climbing on the tree with the cargo nets.
This play area was built after the school was completed in 2007, but uses many compatible ideas.
This play area was built after the school was completed in 2007, but uses many compatible ideas.
The deck is a prominent part of the school's design. The kids love to run there, but the government did require protective railings--no, school officials were told, they couldn't put up nets around the edges instead.
The deck is a prominent part of the school’s design. The kids love to run there, but the government did require protective railings–no, school officials were told, they couldn’t put up nets around the edges instead.
Here's a glimpse of the open classroom design of the school. Architect Tezuka asserts that the noise is healthy for small children. As a teacher who's had to teach in noisy conditions, I'm less sure about that (of course, I was teaching high school, so that may be different).
Here’s a glimpse of the open classroom design of the school. Architect Tezuka asserts that the noise is healthy for small children. As a teacher who’s had to teach in noisy conditions, I’m less sure about that (of course, I was teaching high school, so that may be different).

The school has been profiled by the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Monocle Magazine’s Asia Bureau Chief Fiona Wilson (don’t miss the video she narrates), and many others.

VIDEOS AND IMAGES: Many thanks to YouTube for the TED Talk video and images of the tree, and the play area.  The aerial view of the deck is from Upworthy, and the photo of the open classrooms is from Detail Inspiration. Fascinating articles and more photos are available from most of these. Many thanks to all!

Poverty’s cure?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

John Legend thinks schools should nurture all of children's talents, and empower them to be creative.
John Legend thinks schools should nurture all of children’s talents, and empower them to be creative.

Singer-songwriter and actor John Legend has had an amazing career, but he feels if he’d had an education that valued and nurtured his creative talents his life might have gone much better. If every child’s greatest potential could be activated and empowered, it seems reasonable to believe that poverty could decrease.

“We must break the long-held expectation that schools exist to mold and manage kids,” he said in a CNN interview. “In today’s world, expecting every child’s education to be the same, progress at the same rate and be measured against the same narrow standards of performances is not just outdated, it’s a disservice to young people and the educators who dedicate their lives to helping them.”

This month we’ll look at some of the ways innovative schools and educators are trying to break out of that old-fashioned paradigm.

IMAGE: Many thanks to A-Z Quotes, via Hippoquotes, for this image. 

Curl up to read in the Enchanted Forest

This week’s Artdog Image of Interest

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to make these big-people-sized . . .

Photo by Zane Williams of The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc.
Photo by Zane Williams of The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc.

These “reading pods” are part of a nature-inspired reading area at the Madison Children’s Museum (Madison, WI).

But the awesome coolness doesn’t stop there. Designed by The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc. to repurpose an old office building, this museum is vibrant with creative enrichment.

Learning through play is the guiding theme for areas such as the Art Studio, Log Cabin, Possible-opolis, Wildernest, and many others.

Wander through the museum’s website for more fun and inspiration. Better yet–if you’re ever in Madison, WI, wander through their museum. Many of the areas are marked “All Ages.” I hope they mean that! 🙂

IMAGE: Many thanks to The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc. for providing this photo and to BuzzFeed for posting an article about it. Many thanks to the Madison Children’s Museum for offering such a wonderful learning place!