Students with fleece blanket

Driven by student interest, the annual Highcroft second grade student research and service learning project encourages students to recognize and identify needs they feel are important. The class brainstorms ideas and then vote on the service opportunity they would like to learn more about and support. This year’s second graders chose therapy dogs.

To learn about therapy animals, they read and reviewed a variety of books. They also welcomed therapy dog owner volunteer Kathi Heunemann, who visited campus to talk to them about North Star Therapy Animals (NSTA), a group of over 200 volunteers dedicated to providing therapy animal teams and services to improve the lives of individuals staying in hospitals, elder care and assisted-living residences, hospice units and specialty care facilities. NSTA volunteers also visit libraries and schools as part of their North Star Readers program and make several visits to the Ronald McDonald House. During her visit, Heunemann also talked about who NSTA serves and the needs of the organization. Students learned the difference between therapy and service dogs, the correct way to approach a therapy dog and the process an animal and owner must go through to participate in the program. 

After gathering information from their research, the students used Flipgrid software to record book reviews and create a slideshow to share the research with pre-kindergarten through fifth grade classes on the Highcroft campus. They distributed an Amazon wish list of the reviewed books to second grade families, and purchased books were donated to NSTA who will share them when visiting schools and libraries.

The students decided another way to support NSTA’s therapy dogs would be to make fleece blankets that the dogs could sit on during the organization’s visits to various locations. Their plan of action included teaming up with students from Blake’s Middle School Service Club in a cooperative service project in which they made and donated 15 dog-themed blankets.

After completing their project, the second graders reflected on what they learned. Here are some of their takeaways:

"People can work together. You can help people and your community." —Anaya
"We can make a difference by helping people. I feel good about making a difference. You can help people too." —Daniel
"I learned that no matter how small you are, you can help." —John
"You have to ask how you can help." —Steven
"It's when you do something to grow a society. There are people out there in need of assistance." —Court