Londonderry School Uses Therapy Dog in Classroom

Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy (SNHMA) has become one of the first schools in New England to bring in a therapy dog as a full time member of its community.  Guardian, a Portuguese water dog, was chosen for his temperament, his silky soft hypoallergenic coat and teddy bear looks.  While he’s in the process of completing his year-long training, Guardian is already having a positive impact in the classroom, where he is charged with being a calm, emphatic and steadfast best friend for little boys and girls.

“While school therapy dogs are still currently regarded as a cutting-edge educational tool, research is showing that dogs in the classroom can play a huge role in boosting students’ happiness, calmness, overall emotional well-being, and ability to learn,” explains Debra Hogan SNHMA’s Founder and Head of School.

Guardian, who is always here to greet student with a wag and a lick in the mornings, has helped the younger pre-K students with separation anxiety as their parents drop them off in the morning.  “He is happy to see the children come in in the mornings and offers a welcome huggable friend to little ones who are finding it hard to see Mom and Dad go,” says Hogan.

Guardian is also helping first graders hone in their reading skills, as Ms. Hogan explains: “Dogs are perfect listeners. They are not judgmental; they don’t care if you don’t get the words exactly right, and for most children, practicing reading aloud is all they need to become fluent readers.”

“Therapy dogs can have a positive impact on every aspect of the classroom from lessons planning, to teaching social skills and responsibility, to comforting students in a time of grief or personal crisis. They teach, they listen, they are unconditional friends.  I have seen children who had attention deficit disorder become calmer. I have seen children with emotional difficulties lie down beside the dog and whisper things in his ear, things they’d never tell an adult, and then rise up ready to learn. Their self esteem really soared,” says Terri Hamilton, an Elementary Guidance Consultant and Parent-Child Connection Advocate.

Images courtesy of Tanya Swann Photography.

Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy offers an academically focused education to children through an integrated curriculum. Concentration is given to educating the “whole child” (all facets of the child’s being, including: intellectual, physical, emotional, social and creative aspects) with a strong emphasis of hands-on and experiential learning where children develop their passion in technology, science, visual and performing arts, foreign language and physical education. Complementing a strong academic core, the school offers an enrichment program that includes elementary Latin, creative arts (visual and performing), daily physical education, technology and Spanish.  For further information, please visit their website.

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