It’s no secret that pets are good for our health and well-being, but could they make us smarter?
James Cook University researchers will put the theory to the test when they monitor the Delta Society’s Classroom Canines Program, being piloted at Woree State School.
The program is designed to help children improve their literacy through positive interactions with dogs.
Animal behaviourist Dr Janice Lloyd from JCU’s School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences has teamed up with Dr Reesa Sorin from the University’s School of Education to study the impact of the program on the students’ literacy and social development.
“We have a special interest in the human-animal bond and how dogs benefit people mentally and physically, “Dr Lloyd said. “The research is an exciting collaboration between the two JCU schools, the Delta Society and Woree State School.
“We are hoping to quantify any changes in children’s literacy skills as well as assessing any effects interaction with a dog may have on social and cognitive development.”
Woree State School Deputy Principal Joanne Sibley said this was a fantastic opportunity for students to engage in new and meaningful ways to increase their fluency and confidence in reading.
“The 12 students involved in the initial program are excited about reading to their furry friends,” she said.
Delta Society coordinator Sandra Glaister said they were thrilled to offer the Classroom Canine Program to children at Woree State School.
“The aim is to help children improve their reading skills, using specially trained volunteers and their Delta-accredited dogs,” Ms Glaister said.
The volunteers and their temperament-tested dogs will visit Woree State School on a weekly basis throughout term three for reading lessons – either with an individual child or in a group environment.
So far the program has been conducted in Townsville, Geelong and Newcastle. It provides schools with an additional learning tool to encourage the overall development of a student.
Previous research conducted in Townsville at Stuart State School by Dr Sorin found students and teachers were very enthusiastic about the program.
“We envisage special bonds and relationships will also be forged between students and dogs,” Dr Sorin said.
The initiative for the pilot project is made possible by funding from Woree State School. Doctors Sorin and Lloyd plan to seek future funding to deliver the program to schools across Australia.
Visit www.deltasocietyaustralia.com.au for information on The Delta Society Classroom Canine Program.
Issued August 7, 2013
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