The school has teamed up with Healing Species, a program that works with rescued dogs and students to address issues of violence, bullying and crime. “This program is an opportunity to teach kids life skills in responsibility and personal safety and bullying prevention and how to handle everyday annoyances,” said the director of Healing Species Adele Little.
A big part of the program is using rescue dogs to show the children how the dogs have handled difficult situations and are still loving and kind. “All of them are rescues so they’ve all got a story,” said Little. “Somebody didn’t want them. Yet, at a point in time, somebody spoke up for them and has given them help and care and love. And now, look at how they’ve responded. They come into the classroom giving love.”
Principal Brian Agnew has already seen benefits from the program. He says the school administration has had fewer disciplinarian referrals from the fourth grade since the program started. Students have also been actively demonstrating some of the life skills they are learning. “I’ve had students come up and ask if they can write letters to patients at MUSC to show compassion for them. I know some of them have offered to write letters to soldiers in Afghanistan and other places,” said Agnew.
Right now the program is offered to fourth graders at Chicora Elementary School and Harleyville-Ridgeville Elementary School but there are plans to expand it to other schools next semester. Agnew thinks all schools could benefit from classes like Healing Species.