District 287 Canine Assisted Interventions Thursday, July 3, 2008
As described by biologist E. O Wilson, humans have an "innate affinity" - Biophilia - for animals and nature and this natural attraction is what Minnesota Linking Individuals, Nature and Critters (MN LINC) emphasizes in its therapeutic, educational, and wellness programs. This understanding of how nature and animals can have a healing effect for people is one reason MN LINC has been consulting and providing animal- and nature-based services to Intermediate District 287 for over eight years. District 287 is an innovative education partner to 13 Hennepin County public school districts in the west metro area. For more than 40 years, these member districts and other education professionals have partnered with District 287 to customize unique services for their students - and now it seems these services include wagging tails, wet noses, and an additional cost of a few pieces of dog kibble!
During the 2004-05 academic year, MN LINC helped design a "Canine-Assisted Intervention Program," a pilot whereby District 287 staff and their dogs received training to help students accomplish various social, academic, and personal goals. The first phase created a "canine council" - an oversight body comprised of District 287 administration, key personnel, and school staff. In the beginning, regular meetings produced a set of policies and procedures for the program, and currently, this group reviews what impact each a dog has with specific students or classrooms and how handlers can better partner with their dogs to help accomplish student goals.
The second phase of this pilot was training. Developed and taught by MN LINC staff, this curriculum emphasizes how to "read" a dog's "calming signals" through the work of Turid Rugaas, how to work with a dog in a positive fashion through the use of clicker training, how to help calm and teach a dog through the use of TTouchTM, and how together as a team, the dog and owner augment students' learning - academically, emotionally, and socially. At the conclusion of the training, staff and their dogs complete the Pet PartnersTM evaluation through the Delta Society and upon passing, begin to work at school on a trial, two-month basis. To date, over 20 teams have successfully completed the training program and currently, there are 7 teams working in District 287 locations.