Approaching Your Local School
- If you do not already have contacts in middle schools, consult your local phone book and contact friends, relatives and fellow club members to find out where middle schools are located in your community. Middle school usually includes grades six to eight and may also be referred to as "junior highs."
- Contact the schools in writing. It may be best to address the correspondence to a specific department such as English or social studies. Explain the program you'd like to present and the topics it will include.
- To locate after-school programs in your area try contacting the school district or each middle-school. You also may find eager audiences by contacting local youth organizations (4-H, Boy and Girl Scouts, Girls, Inc., etc.)
- When offering to do a presentation, be sure to mention the topics you will cover (civics and breed specific legislation; language arts and choosing the right dog, etc.), the length of time you will need (give a range to allow for the school's scheduling) and the grade levels and number of students you can accommodate. Promote your program by emphasizing the benefit to students of learning about responsible dog ownership, and promote yourself by detailing the activities your club offers to the community.
- Include a sign-up sheet that individual teachers can use if they'd like to have you visit their classroom. Make arrangements to pick up this list by a certain date.
After a teacher has agreed to a presentation, make an appointment to discuss your upcoming visit. This appointment can be made as soon as the teacher accepts your offer to visit and should be held after school hours in the classroom you will be using.
If a face-to-face visit is not possible, you should send a printed outline or script to the teacher for his/her review at least one week before your visit. Include a supply list. These lesson plans are guides that you may expand or shorten. The teacher may continue some lessons the next day or go over the handouts if they were given as homework. Discuss the various options for the program with the teacher. If you plan to visit with your dog, be sure to ask if any of the students have allergies or a fear of dogs. Arrangements may have to be made to excuse these students from your presentation.
Because all lesson plans include handouts and worksheets, remember to ask the teacher how many students are in each class, so you can be sure to print out enough copies. Make sure the teacher will handle discipline problems if the students become excited.
Two to three days in advance call the teacher to check that everything is going as planned and review your presentation. Be sure your presentation fits into the time granted to you by the school. On the day of the presentation, you can ask the teacher to signal you when there are only five to 10 minutes left, so you can wrap things up and end on time.
The Day of the Presentation
If you haven't already visited the school, make sure you have clear directions and give yourself ample time to get there. Make sure any assistants you have are also well prepared and able to get there on time. If you are driving, be sure to ask whether there is a certain area in which you should park.
Leave yourself enough time to calmly set up your room. If you have your dog with you, now might be a good time to take him for a short walk or reacquaint him with the area.
Begin your presentation by greeting the students warmly, telling them your name and the reason for your visit. You may want to have your dog wait outside the room at first (accompanied by a volunteer) or in his crate at the front of the room so the students can concentrate on what you are saying without being distracted.
If you have brought your dog to the presentation, keep in mind that it is always a good idea to go over the basic points on approaching a dog (ask the owner's permission; let the dog sniff the back of your hand; pet the dog gently under the chin...) before you allow the students to come up-in an orderly fashion-to meet your dog.
When your program is under way, be sure to involve the students by asking for their input, and always respect their comments. A point you think obvious or inconsequential might be a whole new concept for a particular student.
If a student offers an incorrect answer or falters midway through an answer,respond by saying "Yes, and would someone else like to add to that point?" Never respond with a blunt "Wrong!" or you risk intimidating that child and dampening class enthusiasm.
At the end of the presentation, thank the students for paying attention, and thank the teacher for inviting you to visit the class.
The most important thing to remember is to HAVE FUN! Your enthusiasm and love of purebred dogs will be evident, and the student will eagerly follow your lead.
The AKC would love to hear about your experience in the classroom. We will gladly share your tips and anecdotes with the entire PEC and Canine Ambassador network. Forward your comments to:
AKC Public Education
8051 Arco Corporate Drive, Suite 100
Raleigh, NC 27617-3390