- Grand Blanc Community Schools
Reid Rocket "Puppy Raisers"
The multi-categorical (special education) students at Grand Blanc's Reid Elementary have taken on an important responsibility this year with their teacher, Tammy Bolongaita.
Bear, a Golden Retriever who's just months old, has become a part of their classroom. Bear is in training to become a service dog for the blind.
In addition to getting many cuddles and scratches from this classroom of kids, the students in the class are helping to train Bear for service. Bolongaita demonstrated one of the many ways this takes place and benefits both dog and students by running through a "greeting" exercise with the students. They watched a short video with a catchy tune about the difference between "formal" (hand-shaking) greetings, and "fun" greetings like a "butterfly" handshake. Then, one at a time, the students took turns practicing those greetings with their teacher. Bolongaita calmly reminds them to say her name when they say "hello" or "good morning" and then allows them to choose which kind of greeting they would like to practice. Many of them chose the "butterfly" version.
After applying Bear's special bandana that labels him a service dog in training, Bolongaita awards the puppy treats from her pocket for staying at her side during the commotion. Bear has to be able to stay in place when there are other people interacting with his future person. He's very good at it for such a young puppy. Seemingly bored, he even plopped down to rest.
Multicategorical classrooms host students with any number of disabilities - both physical and developmental. Bear will one-day assist a person with a disability, which isn't lost on the students. They like the idea that they're training a furry hero.
The kids put together a very well done news-cast-style video to introduce Bear to the rest of the school, wherein one of the students reads the book "Raising a Hero" to explain to the other children why they have a puppy in their room. They all know that when the bandana is on, Bear is working. When the bandana comes off, they are free to interact with him.
Bolognaita occasionally puts Bear in his crate if the students are too distracted, but says that generally, Bear is extremely docile for such a young puppy and he's content to lay on a mat at her feet while the students do their lessons.
Bear has his own mailbox outside their classroom door where other Reid students drop off letters they have written to him. They know that they can ask Bear questions or just send him a friendly note, and Bear will write back. The students in our multi-categorical room get to practice their writing skills, too, by helping Bear to answer all the very cute questions and adorable notes. So far Bear's mailbox has been jammed packed!
In between lessons and training sessions, Bear gets a whole bunch of love and attention, and the students have a furry friend who will listen to them sing "Old Town Road" during belly scratches. It's a win/win.