Education Goes to the Dogs – TurfMutt is One “Superhero” of a Teacher

Educating kids can be challenging, but over 60 million children and their families have been touched by the programming, TurfMutt, aka Lucky, gets the job done.

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Some of the recipient schools of the TurfMutt’s “Be a Backyard Superhero” and “Saving the Planet, One Schoolyard at a Time,” programs.

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Educating kids, even under the best of circumstances, can be challenging, but Kris Kiser thinks using a dog is the perfect solution.  In fact, it works so well, over 60 million children and their families have been touched. So how can a dog teach children about nature, conservation, and sustainability? Well, that’s easy enough when the teacher is TurfMutt!

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Getting the word about things like dealing with issues like drought, butterfly migration, even playing outdoors may not seem like very important topics on the surface, but in the grand scheme of things they speak to the on-going changes taking place on our planet.  As many adults are set in their ways about the how’s and why’s of things, kids have the capacity and interest to learn and explore.  In short, reaching kids is precisely the way to affect thoughtful change.  When kids become passionate about something, like nature and how taking care of it takes care of all of us, they, in turn, teach their parents and guardians and that is powerful and TurfMutt is the perfect messenger.

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“When I adopted Lucky from the side of an Indiana highway, I saved his life. But his arrival also made my life so much better,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. “And now Lucky has a new mission in life as TurfMutt.” The TurfMutt environmental education and stewardship program, in partnership with Scholastic, teaches children in grades K-5 to take care of the environment while learning science.

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TurfMutt, the television star, is often featured on the Lucky Dog Show, part of ‘CBS Dream Team, It’s Epic!’ line-up on Saturday mornings, like Superman’s Clark Kent, has an alter-ego. “Pop,” as Kris calls him, although everyone else refers to the black and white pooch as “Lucky,” is a real-life rescue Kris brought into his life and the two are inseparable.  So much so, when he was meeting with a communications vendor about creating an educational program for kids, Pop became central to the conversation. What if he were the superhero and environmental issues like heat, dust, and drought were villains? With that Kris tied a tablecloth on him, took him down by the Potomac River for a photo shoot, and “TurfMutt,” was born.

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Because TurfMutt is real, he shows up at all variety of places, including award shows, schools, special events, even production and business meetings.  Kris shared that this character makes learning about why putting a butterfly bush into the yard is a good thing and brown is okay for lawns as it has gone dormant (because Mother Nature is, afterall, smarter than we are), fun, interesting, and accessible.  With a dog at the center of the teaching and the aid of both environmental evil-doers like Dr. Runoff and Carbon Creep and the good guys such as Water Warrior and Big Rooty, kids are learning and becoming actively involved in conservation and sustainability efforts. Even better? They, in turn, are teaching the adults in their lives. As Kris says, “John Smith won’t change his yard or mind, but his kid will.”

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Having initially started via the Weekly Reader program that was distributed to 800 schools, the programs popularity grew and grew. The Discovery Channel came along, followed by Scholastic giving TurfMutt an even greater platform from which to share his message through its STEM education program, delivered to well over ten thousand schools.  There has even been a National TurfMutt Teacher Award created.

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TurfMutt also gets the word out about something else near and dear to his heart. That of pet adoption encouraging everyone to “Paw it forward.” As a rescue himself, he is in a position to bark out a message on behalf of all the shelter animals everywhere that are looking for forever homes.

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The great thing about the TurfMutt program, besides teaching kids about the outdoors, environmental stewardship, and encouraging the adoption of shelter pets, is the program materials are available for everyone on the Scholastic website.  Just like Lucky is a real-life superhero, any and everyone is welcomed to join the crusade.

 

To learn more about the TurfMutt environmental education and stewardship program at TurfMutt.com.

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