• Little Blue wins PSA contest; two other schools in "Second Chance" contest

  • Little Blue Elementary students won a grant for their school with their creative approach to promoting animal adoption in national public service announcement competition.

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  • Little Blue Elementary students won a grant for their school with their creative approach to promoting animal adoption in national public service announcement competition.
    The elementary school was one of the winners of the 2nd annual Mutt-i-grees “America Adopts” PSA contest. Little Blue received the Regional title, receiving a $1,500 educational grant for their PSA “Adoption is Their Second Chance.” The goal of the contest is to raise awareness of the availability of shelter pets.
    Chrissy Taylor, a counselor at Little Blue, said the Mutt-i-grees curriculum has been used for several years at Independence Academy and Kids Safari sites in the district. When Little Blue opened in August, the school started using it as well. She said after learning about the contest from district officials, she thought it was a great way to get students more involved in Mutt-i-grees.
    “Participating in this contest meant we had the opportunity to raise awareness to adopting shelter pets, and at the same time, provide a learning experience to our students that is different than those they normally have in the classroom,” she said. “We love to think outside the box - learning doesn’t only take place at a desk, animals can be a great teacher, and I believe that our students learned a lot from these four-legged teachers through this contest. We hope that our students learned that they’re each unique and important, just as they felt these dogs were. We hope this will always be a reminder to them that they can achieve goals they work hard on.”
    Mutt-i-grees is a program that teaches students social and emotional skills as well as social responsibility through relationships between children and animals. It was developed by Yale University School of the 21st Century, in collaboration with the North Shore Animal League America, which is funded through the Cesar Millan Foundation. Cesar Millan is a dog behavioral specialist, hosting his own television series “Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan.”
    Ten students were selected from Kids Safari, the before and after school program, at Little Blue to participate in the project. An emphasis was placed on student involvement from the very start of the PSA.
    “From the beginning, we insisted that this project be student-led. We knew that some districts would probably hire the project out, or bring in a professional, but we wanted students to do all of the production, from creating the story line, to shooting, to starring in the videos,” said Erica Smith, assistant director of youth development for the Independence School District. “We knew that would help them to be invested in the subject in a way they wouldn’t be otherwise. By watching the videos, you can see how empathetic they are, and how they want those viewing the videos to be empathetic, too. This was a great teaching tool for our students.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Taylor said she was shocked to learn Little Blue had been chosen as a regional winner. She said the students were “overwhelmed with joy.”
    “They were running up to us in the hallway saying, ‘We won. We won,’” she said. “They were also thrilled to know other people had watched the video they had worked so hard on. We were grateful for the opportunity to go to New York City to represent our school and students. We were eager to get back to Little Blue and show them the ‘big check’ they had won.”
    While the top winners have been announced in the PSA contest, the remaining schools that entered now are competing in a “Second Chance” contest. The top three will be chosen by popular vote and the winner gets a $1,500 grant. Second place will receive $1,000, and third place will receive $500.
    Bridger Middle School and Sycamore Hills elementary are both entered in the second chance contest. Currently, Bridger has had 1,441 plays on the website and Sycamore Hills has had 355.
    Individuals can vote at videos.animalleague.org/pages/psa. Voting ends Jan. 16. To vote, click on the school’s video at the bottom of the page. Each play of the video counts as a vote.
    “While only four schools participated in the contest, the Mutt-i-Grees program is in all of our before and after school programs,” Smith said. “We were thrilled (for Little Blue). We thought all of the videos created by our students showed a real understanding of the subject matter, and an incredible amount of creativity. We had a feeling that one of the videos could be a winner.”

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