An important characteristic of Catholic schools is the care each school takes in responding to and meeting the specific needs of its students. Schools are doing this in a variety of ways across the diocese, and a few schools have brought in some four-legged support.
In a series of blog posts, we will showcase schools that have welcomed service dogs into their classrooms to calm students, help them to focus, and provide stress relief. While educators must determine whether a service dog is right for their particular classroom or on a case by case basis, studies have shown that students benefit from exposure to dogs.
Meet Lola, the newest addition to the All Saints Academy staff! She has been visiting the lower campus since last spring. Her Wednesday visits to the school are often the highlight of the week. “The students love Lola! All the students' eyes light up when she comes!” says Carrie Bowman, a second grade teacher at All Saints Academy. “Lola brings a ‘calm’ among all the students when they sit down and read to her. They will pet her, talk to her, or simply just sit and enjoy the company of being next to her as they are reading.”
However, the classroom isn’t the only place where Lola brings a sense of calm. Lola has been a service dog with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs since just before her second birthday. She has been specifically trained to work on ski patrol and from November through March Lola is busy at Cannonsburg Ski Area with her trainer, Erika Chapman. Lola’s job at Cannonsburg is to stand by skiers who have been injured, as well as to manage the crowds that gather around these accidents. Erika, a mother of two students at All Saints Academy, wanted to find a way for Lola to exercise her skills during the warmer months.
Visiting the classrooms was the perfect opportunity to do so. “The kids are always really excited to see her. While I’m walking down the hallway I can hear the students in their classrooms whispering ‘Lola is here!’ to one another,” says Erika. All of the students enjoy snuggling up to her during their class time. Erika says that having Lola there turns reading, a task that can be stressful for second-grade students, into something enjoyable and fun. Lola is able to distract and reduce stress for students that are feeling discomfort or self-conscience about reading. Providing the students with a bit of extra support while they practice reading is a perfect example of All Saints Academy’s philosophy of education, which focuses on the spiritual, intellectual, moral, social, and physical development of our children.
Whether calming injured skiers or reassuring nervous readers, Lola’s presence brings peace and comfort wherever she goes!
To see more Lola photos, click here.