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Posted by on Mar 12, 2014 | 0 comments

Canine PBL


Lead With Your Heart Book Bound1

Here at CritterKin, we live and breathe PBL with a twist.  Instead of Project Based Learning, we refer to PBL as “Pit Bull Love.” It’s our way of honoring Lance, the misunderstood pit bull featured in our latest book, Lead With Your Heart, while calling attention to the need for balance in the education equation.

As the current concerns over bullying, prejudice and safety in our schools illustrate, there is a real and pressing need for kids to experience and put empathy, compassion and respect into practice.  To quote Dr. Gail Melson, Professor of Child Development and Family Studies at Purdue University “In the get-ahead pressure cooker that is modern childhood, how do kids learn about being kind, caring, and nurturing? Taking the perspective of someone or something very different from ourselves—as a different species of animal surely is—stretches and strengthens our empathy ‘muscles’ at any age. It’s a particularly great exercise in emotional understanding for young children…”

The CritterKin approach to PBL begins with a set of wonderful characters and a compelling story. We read from one of the CritterKin books, discuss what it means to be kind, draw pictures of dogs and talk about practical ways to help homeless animals. Our goal is to not only evoke empathy and compassion in kids, but show them how to make those qualities part of their everyday lives through practical hands on projects as well.

There are currently three books in the CritterKin series, but Lead With Your Heart is the first to explore the topics of bullying, prejudice and fear.  Told through the eyes of Lance, a pit bull in search of his forever home, the story takes young readers into Lance’s world as he wonders why human beings change their “skins” two or three times a day, talk to plastic devices held against their ears and wear strange contraptions on their feet called “shoes.”  Even more puzzling to Lance, however, are the people who want to make it illegal to own pit bulls.

To discover how Lance and his people overcome their differences, learn to communicate and manage to convince even the most fearful person in town to lead with her heart, grab a copy of Lead With Your Heart to read with your kids. If you’d like to know more about our  PBL activities, visit “Start with the Heart” or email us at We’d love to add you and your school to our network of connected, empathic learners.  – Jena Ball

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Posted by on Mar 3, 2014 | 0 comments

My Mutt Myself


Actor Jonathan Keltz with his favorite mutt Ernest

Actor Jonathan Keltz with his favorite mutt Ernest

I’ve always liked the idea of people becoming so close to their dogs that they actually begin to look like them. So you will understand why Matthew Winner’s  #WRAD2014 Selfie project appealed to me.  Launched as a way to celebrate and call attention to World Read Aloud Day, the idea is simple. Folks choose a favorite character from a children’s book, take a photo of themselves – a “Selfie” – with a likeness of that character, then replace their current profile photos on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. with that image. The likeness could be anything from a stuffed animal (think Winnie the Pooh), a cardboard cutout or a photo.

Needless to say this seemed ready made for CritterKin. We have eight goofy mutts and one slightly off beat human to choose from and kids are always saying how much they identify with one or more of the characters.  So tell us, who is your favorite mutt and why. Not sure who they all are? Visit

World Read Aloud Day is “…an opportunity to celebrate reading, writing and sharing with your entire  community.” It falls on March 5th this year, and Ms. Jenaia and the mutts will be doing several readings both before and on the day itself. This day is near and dear to our hearts because the ability to read is such a powerful way to make learning a joy for kids. Plus, if you are unable to read, it limits your life terribly. There are currently 793 million people who cannot read and WRAD is held in their honor. If you would like to know more about how you can celebrate and help improve literary, please visit:  These folks are storytellers, so we’re fans.

Here are some more selfies for your perusal

Selfie Jena and Ms. Jenaia Selfie Marty and Lance

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