N.J. PEC and Canine Ambassador Helps Seventh Graders Learn &##8212; and Teach &##8212; AKC Safety Lessons

Patrick at attention.
Courtesy of Elaine Shoe-Ezell.

The third graders at Robert Gordon Elementary School in Roselle Park, N.J., learned a new trick last year.

When they stood very still, crossed their arms and looked away, Patrick, a friendly Golden Retriever, and regular volunteer library “listener” for kids who are learning to read, lost interest in them and walked away.

“Patrick went up to the children, sniffed their shoes then their legs but, if they didn’t look at him, he walked away,” said Patrick’s owner Elaine Shoe-Ezell, Public Education Coordinator and Canine Ambassador for the Garden State Golden Retriever Club. “It was very obvious that he moved away from them when they crossed their arms.”

Shoe-Ezell and her four-legged partner spent a few days working with students as part of the neighboring Roselle Park Middle School’s annual Passionate Learners Day. The program encourages teachers to share with students interests they are passionate about that usually fall outside the routine curriculum. Joanne Carbotti, a seventh grade talented and gifted teacher is passionate about dogs and coordinated a multi-day program on animal care and safety around dogs.

With the help of a grant from the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association; visits from a local veterinarian, veterinary assistant and local dog club PEC and Canine Ambassador; and AKC Public Education publications, middle and elementary school students learned about animal-related careers, basic care, responsible dog ownership, the valuable work dogs do to serve their communities and safety around dogs.

When Carbotti, a dog lover who owns a Yellow Labrador Retriever, invited the local PEC and Canine Ambassador to take part in the Passionate Learners program, Shoe-Ezell advised the teacher to have the students first explore the Public Education section of the AKC website. The section features loads of public education resources including brochures, activity sheets and lesson plans. The seventh graders watched the AKC’s Best Friends video, which Shoe-Ezell followed up with a discussion about rescue, recovery, how dogs helped in 9/11, and bomb sniffing. Shoe-Ezell and Patrick also gave a thorough safety presentation and distributed AKC bookmarks, coloring books, activity sheets and other materials.

“I demonstrated with Patrick how you greet a dog, how to ask permission to pet a dog, and how to fold your fingers into your hand and touch a dog under the chin when petting him for the first time,” said Shoe-Ezell.

Patrick with Elaine Shoe-Ezell in a classroom.
Courtesy of Elaine Shoe-Ezell.

The seventh graders then prepared to teach what they had learned to third graders at the elementary school next door.

“My seventh graders sat down and decided what lessons they thought were the most important to teach the younger kids. They had lots of materials and chose the ones they wanted to use during the lesson. They bundled the rest for kids to take home in boxes they would later decorate so they could continue the learning at home,” Carbotti said. “They enjoyed the materials they received. Schools are on a really strict budget, and it was nice to get some extras.”

The seventh graders selected and practiced their lesson plans and demonstrations with Shoe-Ezell and Patrick then split into groups of two or three per each group of 10 third graders.

“The older students explained how to greet a dog verbally, then they each took their group of third graders and practiced the greeting,” Shoe-Ezell said. “I held the leash, but the kids did the training. What I think is excellent is that the seventh graders got it, understood it and were able to pass it along to the third graders.”

Before the lesson, some of the students were afraid of dogs and didn’t know how to approach them.

“Seeing how gentle Patrick was and being taught to imitate the ‘Stand like a tree’ strategy really sunk in,” Carbotti said. “The children were amazed the dog just ignored them. Then, when they put their hands by their side in a friendlier manner, the dog would approach them again.”

“By the time the lesson was finished, the kids who had been afraid of dogs before were the ones asking to go visit and pet Patrick,” Carbotti added. “It was an eye-opener for me and a great experience for the kids who presented and the kids who watched.”