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On Thursday December 19th  I read, discussed, drew and encouraged  4th 5th and 8th graders at Endeavor Charter School in Raleigh, NC to come up with stories about kindness. This was all part of the CritterKin “Be Kind” campaign to use a subject kids love (animals) as the basis for creating entertaining educational projects that translate classroom learning into practical, real life activities. In other words, Project Based Learning.

I’ve chronicled those two days – sharing both my lesson plans and the students’ amazing work – here in this blog and on the CritterKin “Try This” page. However, what I haven’t mentioned is that all three of the teachers who helped me plan and execute the CritterKin event had good news to share when I returned on Friday to work with the 6th graders. Apparently several parents had called the school to say their kids loved the activities, and one family was so moved by their son’s insistence that they needed to help homeless animals that they called their local shelter and made a donation.

This was music to my ears of course, because it’s hard to know how much of an impact you’ve had after just one visit. However, it also got me thinking about how vitally important it is for parents to support and enhance classroom learning and vice versa. Education doesn’t start and stop at the entrance to a school and children do not come to school as blank slates. Everything they experience outside school colors and informs their perceptions, reactions and ability to learn.

Hearing about the reactions of the Endeavor School parents made me realize how important it is to balance the educational equation by engaging with and enlisting the support of parents. The big question of course is how can we harness and convey the excitement and commitment that’s building among the #hashtag people to larger communities of influence? At CritterKin, we believe that the best way is one mutt at a time.