While learning seems to come naturally to some students, others struggle and need a spark or a jump-start. To make sure all students are engaged in learning, many schools are now turning to unusual ways to reach their students and are experiencing some very positive results! Here are a few examples:

Service dogs

Service and facility dogs can provide valuable learning opportunities. Specially trained dogs can teach students how to overcome fears, learn patience and perseverance, and listen to and follow directions. Children with special needs especially benefit from working with service dogs when they brush the dog, take it for walks, and play fetch.  These activities help develop gross motor skills and reduce stress. If a child finds social interaction to be a struggle, having a dog as a buddy can be very calming.

Having a classroom canine mascot can also spark students’ interest in math (measuring out dog food) and writing (using the dog as the subject of a paper).

Infants

A Canadian non-profit group has an interesting strategy to reduce bullying. How does it work?

An infant, along with his or her parents, is assigned to visit a class regularly. The students in the class become emotionally attached as they watch the infant grow and develop. This emotional attachment and caring is often transferred to the students’ peers because the students have learned words to describe their feelings and experienced the emotion of caring about how someone else feels.

Teachers have observed that students who participated in this program were more connected, caring, and aware of how their neighbors felt.  They learned how to read a person’s face, give up trying to control another person, and care about others in the world around them.

Community volunteers

At The Intergenerational School in Cleveland, Ohio, the philosophy is that learning is a life-long activity.  At the school, it’s common to see young students working with older volunteers, including some with Alzheimer’s disease. Volunteers work with students in reading, writing, hobbies, and art.

It’s a win-win situation. For the volunteers, staying socially and mentally active boosts their overall well-being. For the students, it’s a chance to learn with kids of all ages and be taught by members of their community. When the old and young share their knowledge with each other, everyone is learning.

If you use an interesting teaching technique in your classroom, please share it here. We’d love to know what works for you!