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SEL Series:A Pooch at your After-school

Let’s take a look at the Mutt-I-Grees SEL curriculum

I recall sitting in a meeting with one of our education coordinators, and he pitched the idea of dogs coming to 20 West, our middle and high school learning center. At first, I thought what? Dogs!?! I hesitated because I know most kids love dogs, but not all kids. While everyone talked during the meeting, I imagined a big, scary dog walking in and frightening some of our students. However, I was wrong after attending our first Mutt-I-Grees class.

As I listened and learned more about the program, my curiosity peaked. I learned that the Mutt-I-Grees Curriculum is an SEL program, developed by Yale University’s School of the 21st Century and The North Shore Animal League America.

The primary focus of the Mutt-I-Grees Curriculum is to teach social-emotional learning using shelter pets (and/or puppets, since the pogram does not require a live dog in the classroom).  The program encourages social-emotional competency, academic achievement, and inspires children to explore the benefits of human-animal interaction.  More importantly, students, as a result, become more knowledgeable and thoughtful of the needs of shelter pets (dogs or cats!).

Program Takeaways

The Mutt-I-Grees curriculum can be used in various after-school settings.  Studies have shown gains in empathy and pro-social behavior.  Also, the curriculum is intended to help reduce aggression.  Results from other studies show that participants in this program grow in displaying compassion, as well as developing a positive perspective towards school. Not only does the program help students with their own personal challenges, but it also increases students understanding of animal shelters and the plight of shelter pets.

My experience with the Mutt-I-Grees program

I remember our students’ reaction to the first time the dogs walked into the doors of our program. Their eyes popped out with excitement and intrigue.  We gathered the students into the community room, and witnessed the magic happen. The students asked questions and engaged with the volunteers and dogs. To my surprise, many of the students who were afraid to pet the dogs at the beginning of the class warmed up and decided to engage with the animals.

Details about the curriculum:

Mutt-I-Grees curriculum covers Pre-K- 12th grade. It is separated into four kits based on grade level – PreK-3, 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12. It is not a free program, although costs range from $75 for on-line only access only to $149 for a kit. The curriculum consists of 25 lessons, usually done once a week, each for 30 minutes.

 I believe that the Mutt-I-Grees program is impactful and inspiring for children of all ages.  If you want to learn more about the Mutt-I-Grees curriculum visit their website at:

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