Older Kids Need a Dog Club, Too

The Lower School has a dog club, which has many benefits. Why not Middle and Upper School?
By Mia Deckman

One afternoon last spring, I returned to campus after a Service Brigade trip and noticed two fluffy Golden Retrievers on the front lawn. They were surrounded by several children who were smiling with joy while petting the dogs.

I was very curious as to why there were two furry friends on campus, especially since dogs generally aren’t allowed at school anymore, and I knew that whatever this was, I wanted to join in. I decided to do some investigating and found out that the Lower School has been participating in an after-school dog club once a week for the last three years.

I felt envious of the Lower School because there isn’t a dog club offered to Upper and Middle Schoolers. My family and I own two dogs that I adore and I am always in a better mood after petting any furry, loving animal.

According to UCLA Health, petting animals releases serotonin, which typically elevates a person’s mood, lowers their anxiety and is comforting.

I am not the only one who thinks that the Middle and Upper School should have a dog club.

“We definitely need one for our most stressful periods,” seniorAnnie Bryant said.

Nellie’s Schoolhouse is an organization that brings well-behaved dogs into schools around the community, including Woodlynde. The dogs help students relieve stress and bring them lots of joy by surrounding them with positive energy.

Mr. Tom Richards, Executive Director, is a big part of Nellie’s Schoolhouse. Before Nellie’s Schoolhouse, Mr. Richards was Upper School Head at Woodlynde.

Three years ago, Mr. Richards reached out to the Lower School to see if he could bringdog therapy into the classroom, according to second-grade teacher Mrs. Crawford, who oversees the Lower School clubs. 

“This was not something that we could incorporate into the curriculum, so [Assistant Head of School]Mrs. Maglio asked to look into having them come for a club for the Lower School,” Mrs. Crawford said.

Once I found out this information, I was upset that a club for Middle and Upper School wasn’t started, as well.

Middle School Writing teacherMs. Walker, who oversees Middle and Upper School clubs, didn’t know that a dog club for Middle and Upper School was a possibility until I brought it to her attention.

“This is the first year that I was made aware that it could be done for Middle and Upper School students,” she said.

The dog club occurs once a week for six weeks in the fall and spring with a small group of Lower Schoolers. All participants of the club must pay a fee, which varies depending upon how many members there are.

Every week, two or three dogs come to campus and spend 30-45 minutes with the students after school.

When asked why they enjoy the Nellie’s Schoolhouse club, several Lower School students said they loved to pet and feed the furry friends.

“I used to be scared of dogs, but it made me feel more comfortable around them,” fifth-graderAJ Lovasz said.

Second-graderZac Meyer said, “I love it because it’s so awesome and I love dogs.”

Hopefully, an Upper School dog club can start soon. Ms. Walker said that she would try to contact Nellie’s Schoolhouse and see if we can begin a Middle and Upper School dog club in the spring.

Middle and Upper School CounselorMs. Szmajda has wanted a therapy dog to come to Woodlynde for a while now.

“Dogs can be very therapeutic and there are positive benefits,” she said. “I would love to have a therapy animal. I think it would be very helpful for my work.”

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Woodlynde School is a private, co-ed college prep day school located in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that serves intelligent, talented students with learning differences in grades K - 12. Woodlynde provides a comprehensive, evidence-based Kindergartenelementarymiddle and high school program in a challenging yet nurturing environment for students with average to above average cognitive abilities (IQ) who have language- or math-based learning differences (such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia or Dyscalculia), Executive Function Challenges, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Auditory Processing Disorder. Even for those students without a diagnosed learning disability (LD), Woodlynde offers expert and caring teachers in small classroom settings that support academic success. Woodlynde School also offers a post-graduate (PG) program in partnership with Rosemont College as well as a regional Summer Camp for students who learn differently.