As the school year swings into gear, children will be getting back to the three Rs: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. For students lucky enough to be attending a school utilizing the Mutt-i-grees curriculum, their academic year will include a fourth R: rovers.
The Mutt-i-grees curriculum is a pre-K through Grade 12 program that’s been implemented in thousands of schools across the US and Canada. The program was developed by the North Shore Animal League America’s Pet Savers Foundation in collaboration with Yale University School of the 21st Century and is funded by the Cesar Millan Foundation.
“The word Mutt-i-grees was conceptualized to raise awareness of the availability and desirability of shelter dogs,” explains Matia Finn-Stevenson, who helped develop the Mutt-i-grees program. Along with focusing on general compassion for shelter dogs, the curriculum also helps shine a spotlight on mixed breed dogs, providing a positive association with the term mutt, “a word that often carries negative connotations.”
The curriculum focuses on books and discussions as well as a hands-on approach to learning about animal welfare. “The first lesson for each grade level introduces the idea of Mutt-i-grees and provides an opportunity for students to visit and begin working with the local animal shelter. For students in Mutt-i-grees schools, this has been the highlight of their experiences with the Curriculum and it continues with various activities children plan in their efforts to help shelter dogs,” says Finn-Stevenson.
In September, Mutt-i-grees schools will join forces with the National Pack Walk, scheduled for September 29 at the National Mall in Washington, DC to raise awareness of shelter pets on a national level. In addition, some Mutt-i-grees schools will have mini-Pack Walks in their communities as well as sending representatives to the national event.
Both the curriculum and the National Pack Walk event share a common goal: to educate children about the special importance of shelter pets. Whether their school is involved in the curriculum or not, Finn-Stevenson urges parents to introduce young pet lovers to the importance of helping shelter animals, starting with books for young readers that can facilitate family discussions.
“Children, beginning at a very young age, are receptive to the plight of shelter dogs and the importance of saving a life by adopting a dog as opposed to buying one. Adopting a dog is not realistic for all families, but there are other ways families can help: visit the local animal shelter, find out if there is an opportunity for the family to volunteer by walking shelter dogs, giving blankets or food.”
Step by step, all these efforts, large and small, national and local, can help to introduce a new generation to the importance of helping—and homing—shelter pets.