Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS BEING TAUGHT?
The Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum teaches social and emotional skills and is unique in its bridging of humane education and the emerging field of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). The notion underlying SEL is that being socially and emotionally competent leads to school success; just as we teach academic subjects, we can teach social and emotional skills.
In a series of easily implemented lessons, students learn critical skills that will help them in their interactions with people (and animals) in school, at home, and later on in the workplace. The lessons are presented in five units: Achieving Awareness, Finding Feelings, Encouraging Empathy, Cultivating Cooperation, and Dealing with Decisions. Activities and readings include feature lessons on dog behavior developed with renowned dog behavior expert Cesar Millan, from NatGeo WILD’s Dog Whisperer.
HOW IS THE MUTT-I-GREES® CURRICULUM BEING USED?
Each lesson is scripted to enable easy implementation and includes various different types of activities. Teachers may select from discussions, role playing and hands-on activities, or they may use the readings and vocabulary words highlighted in each lesson plan. Song and dance, art, and writing activities provide opportunities for creative expression and collaboration. Specific activities for parents ensure that families have opportunities to participate and follow up on what their children are experiencing in the classroom.
HOW DOES THE MUTT-I-GREES® CURRICULUM WORK?
A unique aspect of the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum is the focus on Mutt-i-grees®, or shelter dogs. However, the Curriculum does not require the presence of a dog in the classroom, although some schools involve a therapy dog for some lessons. Even the presence of a dog in the form of a puppet or toy or simply reading about dogs has been shown to be effective in commanding attention, improving cognitive abilities, and contributing to happiness.
WAS THE MUTT-I-GREES® CURRICULUM EVALUATED?
YES! We conducted outcome studies with more than 800 students in schools in rural and low-income urban communities. The studies randomly assigned some classrooms to receive the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum and included student and educator surveys on school climate, as well as behavior, empathy, and parent involvement measures. Comparing classrooms using the Curriculum with non-Curriculum classrooms, we found:
- Significantly higher understanding of shelter dogs and dog behavior among teachers and students in classrooms using the Curriculum;
- Significantly higher levels of empathy and pro-social behaviors among students; and
- Significantly higher levels of positive school climate (linked to bullying prevention) and parent involvement.
In addition, school principals reported reduced incidences of bullying and classroom conflict.