Crossroads students form Hand in Paw therapy teamCrossroads tenth graders Rachel Little and Asia Rodriguez participate in a Barkology 101 event with dogs Gumbo and Evie.
A few four-legged friends have enrolled in a new class called Barkology 101 to help enhance student learning at Hoover’s Crossroads alternative school. New Beginnings, one of two programs available through Crossroads, received a grant this past summer from the Hoover Foundation to fund Barkology 101. As part of the new class, eight students and five dogs from the school’s Personal Development Class will work together to become a Hand-in-Paw Therapy Team.
During the fall semester, students are taking the dogs to Hoover PetSmart each Wednesday for dog obedience training led by an accredited instructor. In the spring, students will learn how to become handlers as the dogs undergo Hand-in-Paw certification. Once this is complete, students will be able to take the visiting therapy dogs to a number of facilities, including Children’s Hospital, UAB Hospital and senior living facilities.
Therapy dogs are not new to the school campus. Principal and program creator Anna Whitney started bringing her dog, Andy, to school with her six years ago. After seeing the positive impact his presence had on students and staff, Andy became a beloved part of the school community.
Through the years, Whitney added two other dogs to the New Beginnings campus, Big Gumbo and Izzie. As evidenced by this latest non-traditional learning opportunity, Whitney is making good on her promise to introduce “out-of-the-box” learning opportunities for her students while keeping the focus on good citizenship.
New Beginnings accepts 60 students each academic year and provides non-traditional learning activities to help young people achieve personal, academic and vocational success. The class is led by teachers Kim Spidell, Charles Crowder and LeAnna Hurst.