Students Learn to Overcome Hardships in “Healing Species” Dog Therapy Program
At Camelot Education, students have opportunities to connect with their community and learn through innovative experiences. Houston’s Richey Academy has creatively found a way to relate the hardships of rescue dogs with students who have been through difficult times.
The “Healing Species ” dog therapy program – which started in South Carolina and continues to grow – gives kids a chance to bond with dogs and learn at the same time. Every Thursday from 2:25 to 3:30, groups of Richey Academy students gather to meet a rescue dog and discuss important life lessons.
Now, after just five sessions, Principal Ms. Edmund feels great about the success of the program which excites and engages the students.
“The intent of the program is to help students process hardships and to teach them empathy and compassion,” says Ms. Edmund. This is achieved right from the start as children make instant connections with the dogs. After meeting the animals, a dialogue is opened up to identify how a dog’s struggles can be applied to ones’ own life.
This is important because many Richey Academy students have already dealt with difficult realities. Teacher Ms. Davis says, “We have young ladies who are in placement homes in which new people become their guardians. We want our children to know that they can overcome the hardships that they have been through – whatever they may be.”
Ms. Davis likes to leave students with a positive new word that captures the dogs’ story and can be applied to people. An example is the word, “resilience.”
One week, students met Skippy, a dog who had been thrown out of a moving car. After being hit, the dog lost a leg. This story resonated with students, who came out of the class knowing the importance of perseverance.
In addition to teaching students valuable coping skills and compassion, the program connects students with the larger world around them. Camelot Education’s Regional Director Cory Thames says he wants to serve the community while giving students the opportunity to see what’s going on outside of their school. Thames says, “Opportunities like Healing Species empower kids to move from being anti-social to being pro-social.”
Ms. Davis confirms that partnership programs help bridge the gap between students and their community in a way that develops trust between the student and their neighborhoods. That way, students can recognize that everyone around them – from their neighbor to the bus driver – is in it together.
Students love the program. Ms. Edmund says many students begin without the coping skills to manage hardships, but through connecting with dogs,
they start to connect with the real world around them. As a result, they will be comfortable accessing more opportunities in the future.
6th grader Paris wanted to participate in the program because she loves dogs and animals. Through the program, she learned to be kind to animals and expects she will be more able to help others after what she experienced in the class. She especially enjoyed playing with the dogs and getting to know what each dog has been through.
To Brian, an 8th grader, the connection between dogs and humans stands out. “Dogs have traits like humans and feel emotion the same way we do.” In his session, Brian learned crucial lessons of overcoming hurt through forgiveness. He wrote that learning to trust was another important lesson that came out of the program. Diamond, an 8th grader, saw the importance of the program from the beginning. She wanted to participate because she felt that dogs can help people overcome things. She showed courage and the program helped her overcome her fear of dogs while learning how dogs can positively impact us. Diamond especially loved listening to the dogs’ unique stories and seeing how they each overcame different hardships.
8th grader J Corleone loves dogs and learned that “if you see a dog in need, it is important to give it some help if you can.” J realized that if you “do something positive, your peers will see and do the same.”
Many more Richey Academy students will be learning these lessons and more in the coming weeks and months. Ms. Edmund expects her school will work with the Healing Species program for a long time to come. Congratulations to Ms. Edmund on finding a way to help children learn compassion and empathy in this special way.