Here I am relaxing in a home-built tent, having a rest with the nursery ‘dog’. I love it when I go to early years settings and see all the creative, cosy spaces they create for children to retreat, relax and regain their balance. Even better if there is a silent, gentle toy animal companion to lie on and stroke and comfort and whisper to – it is self-soothing at it’s best. Ah though…..I am even more thrilled when I go into schools and they have REAL animals for children to engage with. Read just a fraction of the research about how humans need touch to de-stress and experience wellbeing. It’s the OXYTOCIN. A marvellous hormone we release into our own bodies which promotes bonding, love and wellbeing. I truly admire the book called ‘Being Mortal’ where Atul Gawande a brilliant doctor and researcher talks about the importance of older people having access to stroking animals and the extraordinary effect it has on overall health and a positive attitude to life. In my happy primary schools giving children a chance to hold, stroke and teach younger children how to handle guinea pigs is an absolute godsend. These little creatures are worth their weight in emotional gold. I could go on and on, my favourite support for children being equine therapy – but I will stop now – and let you think about how you personally maybe able to make this magic happen in your school. I can’t take in animals to schools but my seal (puppet) because it is on my skin and my heart is beating strongly – can soothe adults and children.
Website Manager’s Notes
We have seen many wonderful projects where pets form an important part of school life, fulfilling a role that people would struggle with. Here are just a few projects.
Pets As Therapy – PAT Dogs. Pets As Therapy is a national charity founded in 1983 by Lesley Scott-Ordish. They enhance health and wellbeing in the community through the visits of trusted volunteers with their behaviourally assessed animals, providing a visiting service in hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other venues all across the UK.
The Kennel Club – Bark and Read The Bark & Read Foundation has been set up to support and promote the amazing work of charities that take dogs into schools as reading volunteers to help tackle the UK’s literacy problems. Funded by the Kennel Club Educational Trust, the Bark & Read Foundation is working with charities, social enterprises and individuals in schools and libraries around the country, helping children to read with their specially trained support dogs.
Equine Therapy There are some great equine therapy projects associated with schools and special schools. Some schools, like the Fortune Centre for Riding Therapy are based around horses specifically to provide many equine-based activities.
We have also seen hamsters, goldfish, school cats, chickens and would you believe in one marvellous school they have a heard of water buffalo!!
Here’s Jenny in the Andes – not at a school but a firm favourite photo!