From classroom trends to school board decisions, Class Act will keep you updated on all the school issues followed by the Star Tribune’s education reporters. Contributors include Alejandra Matos, who covers Minneapolis; Kim McGuire, who covers the west metro; Erin Adler, who covers the south metro; Anthony Lonetree and Libor Jany, who cover St. Paul and the east metro, and Shannon Prather, who cover the north metro.

Canines coming soon to Lakeville classrooms?

Posted by: Erin Adler Updated: December 12, 2013 - 1:13 PM

A Lakeville elementary school has been experimenting with the use of canines in certain classrooms, with positive results.

At Tuesday’s Lakeville school board meeting, Eastview Elementary Principal Taber Akin and Holly Ryan, a school psychologist from Kenwood Trail Middle School, presented the results of several pilot studies they recently conducted at Eastview.

The studies used highly-trained “resource dogs” to help special education students, kids with reading difficulties and those experiencing school-related anxiety.

One student in the study was a girl with special needs who struggled to transition from one part of the day to the next. After working with a dog, she “decreased the number of prompts [needed to move from one activity to the next] by 96 percent, which I’d say is pretty darn successful,” said Ryan.

In another example, first graders reading below grade level were much more motivated when they practiced reading aloud to a dog.

“It’s just pretty magical. It really is,” said Ryan.

Since the early 2000s, the number of dogs helping out in schools in the U.S. has grown exponentially, Ryan explained.

She already uses therapy dogs occasionally with students at Kenwood Trail Middle School.

Akin said he views dogs as “just another instructional tool” to help certain students succeed academically. At the elementary level, it’s essential that kids love coming to school, and the presence of dogs can do that for some kids, he said.

The cost of the dog and its care would be covered by donations, Akin said.

Akin and Ryan will continue working with the dogs and bring a formal proposal for board approval later this school year.

“I think if it goes forward, there will be a lot more districts following suit,” said Ryan.

Board member Roz Peterson said she “looked forward to seeing a proposal, and I’m sure we’ll pass it with flying colors.”

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