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Pups Help Teach Kindness at Newington School

Paterson School in Newington partnered with iHeart Radio and Paws for Friendship recently for a fun-filled day that featured dogs and reading and helped teach students the meaning of “integrity.”

iHeart Radio’s Renee DiNino read Paterson students the book Daisy Mae Finds Her Way, which was also projected onto a large screen in the auditorium.

“When we’re kinder to animals, we’re kinder to people,” iHeart Radio host Renee DiNino told students during the morning P.R.I.D.E. Assembly. She read students the book Daisy Mae Finds Her Way, which was inspired by DiNino’s own dog.

After hearing the story, students watched a demonstration by Officer Deborah Monde, Newington’s animal control officer, and her now-retired search and rescue dog Falcon. Therapy dogs then visited classrooms throughout the day, giving students a chance to visit with the animals and read to them. 

Officer Monde and Falcon demonstrated search and rescue techniques for students.

Third grade teacher Marina DiNino explained that at Paterson, P.R.I.D.E. stands for the character-building attributes pride, responsibility, integrity, determination, and empathy. “We’re rolling out Paterson P.R.I.D.E. to help teach students the meaning of these intense words,” she said. “Today we’re teaching the meaning of integrity.”

She added, “Animals are a very age-appropriate way for students to learn the meaning of integrity. Students can learn how important it is to care for and respect animals who can’t speak up for themselves.”

Students in Beth Dumais’ fourth-grade class pose with iHeart Radio’s Renee DiNino and Buddy.

Marina DiNino worked with fellow third-grade teachers Nicole Partyka and Beth Lucas to plan the assembly and the day’s activities.

“At our school we try to plan one spirit day a month,” said Partyka. She and Lucas advise the Student Council, whose members served as ambassadors for the day’s activities, leading the dogs and handlers from classroom to classroom.

Fourth graders in Jason Koski’s class learned about training dogs with Brian Rogers and Maggie from Leash on Life.

Once the third grade teachers had decided to focus on animals as a way to teach integrity, DiNino reached out to her aunt Renee. “Marina knows I love to visit schools to promote reading, kindness, and anti-bullying,” the iHeart personality said. “Our group from Paws for Friendship is visiting the classrooms today with all sorts of dogs, from a Chihuahua to a Labradoodle. It’s important to teach kids at a young age to care for animals.”

Fourth graders in Marsha Carson’s class took turns reading to Layla.

Fourth grader Lucas Yoder from Marsha Carson’s class described the experience of reading to a dog as “pretty cool,” and added, “I like how dogs can come in and cheer up kids who may be having a bad day.”

“It was really fun to read to Layla. She just sat there and listened and looked like she loved it and approved,” said Lucas’ classmate Faith Miller. “It’s easier to read to a dog than a person. They just listen and don’t correct you if you do something wrong.”

Fourth grader Faith Miller holds up the book she read to Layla, the therapy dog who visited her classroom.

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