During the summer of 2016, ARCHS partnered with Purina® to successfully pilot a social/emotional learning project at all three After School for All Partnership (ASAP) sites this summer. The ASAP summer sites were located in north St. Louis City and Jennings, in partnership with Neighborhood Houses and Provident, Inc., and served 130+ youth. The nation-wide project is Mutt-i-grees® and ARCHS will expand it to all 30 ASAP sites this fall, plus to ARCHS' funded programs beyond ASAP.
Mutt-i-grees® seeks to build calm, confident, and caring kids. Its innovative PreK-12 social/emotional learning curriculum highlights the unique characteristics of shelter pets (mutts) to teach essential skills for academic and life success.
The project is designed for use in various classroom settings, character education, after school programs, and libraries. More than 4,000 schools in over 40 states are using the curriculum, often in conjunction with bullying prevention and efforts to enhance school climate. Lesson plans align with the National Health Education Standards and Common Core State Standards.
Purina provided the three ASAP summer sites with professional development from North Shore Animal League of New York, grade-level lesson plans, pre-post evaluation by Yale University's School of the 21st Century, animal visits by local therapy pet organizations, and library resources.
"We're thrilled to have launched our Purina®/Mutt-i-grees® partnership in St. Louis – Purina's® home base – with professional development for our largest and most diversified implementation in a city to date. Purina understands the positive corporate impact they can have on a community. They value longevity in the relationships they create, and know the way to change is to bring all entities together: schools, libraries, youth organizations, and shelters. Together, we interconnect to create and educate the future generation to care about themselves, others, and animals, the world," said Jayne Vitale, North Shore Animal League of New York.
Guided by the research on resiliency, social/emotional learning, and human-animal interaction, the lesson plans and strategies actively engage youth, in order to promote social/emotional competence, academic achievement, and awareness of the needs of shelter pets.
All lessons in the curriculum contribute to a positive after school climate, with the focus on encouraging everyone – adults and children – to be more thoughtful, respectful, caring, and compassionate in their communication and interaction with each other and with animals.
Themes and their corresponding lessons focus on enhancing children's ability to take others' perspective, gain appreciation of diversity, cooperate with others, and develop skills and strategies to effectively solve problems and resolve conflicts. Front-line after school staff not only teach these core skills, they also model and reinforce these behaviors through daily interactions with the youth.