Tammy Massman likes to say that she is forever in 3rd grade, but I beg to differ. She is forever exploring, thinking like and with her third graders, but her vision for how she’d like them to experience learning is way beyond third grade. Sorry Ms. Massman, but you’re busted. Guilty of dreaming like a big person and the visionary you are ūüėČ

How do I know all this? On Wednesday, November 27 my CritterKin partner, Marty Keltz, and I paid a visit using SKYPE to Ms. Massman’s classroom. There we read a CritterKin story and introduced the kids to our “Be Kind” campaign. ¬†Simply put, “Be Kind” is a project designed to help kids experience and practice kindness both in and outside the classroom.

We began the introduction with the story of Ricky Bobby, a paralyzed puppy mill survivor and one of the main characters in our second book, “Meet the Mutts.” Like all our canine characters, Ricky has a challenge and lesson to share. ¬†His is the neglect he suffered while living in the puppy mill and the physical disabilities that resulted from that neglect. ¬†Ricky’s story offers kids a great way to think and talk about animal cruelty, physical handicaps and being different. ¬†However, Ricky Bobby’s story is special for another reason. ¬†His character is based on a real life, paralyzed puppy mill survivor, and he is the mascot for the “Be Kind” campaign. ¬†You can see a video of his journey here:¬†

After reading the story and sharing Ricky’s video, we asked the kids what we could do to help dogs living at animal shelters. A lively discussion followed. Donate food, make toys, help the shelters clean cages, walk dogs, make flyers and posters, hold a car wash to raise money; the list got longer and longer. Finally we realized it would be best to ask the people working at the shelters what they needed most. ¬†At Tammy’s urging, the kids got out their iPads, began searching Google for local shelters, and took notes about what to ask. The jury is still out about whether to call or write, but we are pretty clear about the questions.

Next we talked about what would not only help the dogs, but be fun for us to do as well. ¬†Again the kids dove right in, suggesting an adoption campaign with posters, photos, stories and posts to blogs, web sites and social media. ¬†These kids are nothing if not tech savvy! You can see the results of our thinking on their new Pinterest board here:¬†We’ll be posting updates, photos, and artwork as the project grows.

The kids ended our meeting by giving us a very special gift – they performed two terrific poems involving pants and a day that got worse and worse and worse. To say we were tickled doesn’t quite capture the laughter and smiles. Both Marty and I can hardly wait for our next sessions with the class. Thanks again Joseph, Kaitlin, Zack, Clay, Pasha, Perry, Tat, Jack, Samantha, Jadin, Paige, and of course Tammy Massman who is finding wonderful ways to open the hearts and minds of her third graders.


Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.