Man’s Best Friend - in the Classroom
April 13, 2021
Growing up on farms, many of us have been used to having animals around, especially dogs. Whether we use them for working stock, just as pets, or maybe even both. As youngsters, many of us probably took having the opportunity to be around animals for granted. Today, many schools are utilizing dogs to perform wonders. Believe it or not, dogs can relieve students’ stress, help kids learn to read, and even boost test scores and attendance.
In my second year teaching agriculture, I had an idea to get a puppy to be part of Taylorville High School’s agriculture program and support students as a learning tool within our school district. In the fall of 2017, I adopted a blue heeler puppy at eight weeks old, the students decided her name should be “Aggie.” Little did she know she would make big changes in many students’ lives. I personally trained Aggie and she went through Canine Good Citizens (CGC) testing. Aggie attends school daily at Taylorville High School and one of her biggest tasks is visiting with our county’s Community Based Instruction (CBI) program. Here, she visits students who are not part of a typical classroom setting. They look forward to her weekly visits where they can pet, snuggle, and play ball with her. Her weekly visits to the CBI wing and traveling throughout the hallway have such a positive impact on our students. It is amazing to witness how a dog can make people smile when they are having a bad day or help relieve stress and anxiety.
Aggie also takes part in FFA Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAE) for several students who do not have a traditional agriculture background. Our school is fortunate to have three agriculture teachers and offer advanced level agriculture courses, and Aggie has been part of demonstrations for our Vet Tech and Animal Biology classes. Aggie’s presence has even opened the door for additional dogs and animals to visit our school district from time to time, and the junior high now has a dog that attends school daily as well. We have even farrowed a gilt and kidded goats in the school ag shop. Observing the way students interact with animals is definitely something special, and offering these unique opportunities to students is a rewarding experience for all.