Congratulations, Sunny Sands Elementary!

Ok, so I’ve never had children, but I’ll never forget one of my best friends saying to me once that when you have a child, it’s like your heart is suddenly walking around out there in the big world, and you just don’t know what’s going to happen – how your child will be received, treated, liked, or loved. You spend years of your life investing time and nurture in that child, hoping and praying that everything will be ok, that they won’t experience rejection or hurt.

Being an entrepreneur is kind of like that. You create something from your heart, and then you put your heart out there and then – you just don’t know what’s going to happen – how your idea will be received, treated, liked, or loved. You spend years of your life investing time and nurture in that idea, hoping and praying that everything will be ok, and that you won’t experience rejection or hurt.

The differences, of course, are obvious. But much of the time you really don’t know, as a business owner, how your ideas and offerings will be accepted in the world. But this morning – this morning was one of those rare moments when I felt like it’s all been worth it. When the careful nurturing, the hours and hours and hours of focused attention and love I’ve poured into my offering, came back to me in spades. I imagine it’s the business equivalent of seeing your child get nominated for “Student of the Year.” That moment when you think, “Oh thank God, some of it is finally paying off. I’m not a terrible parent after all!”

This morning, Sunny Sands Elementary School held their 2nd Grade Reading Celebration and Adoption Ceremony as the culmination of the program I crafted from my heart and have loved from it’s beginning: “How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed in the Classroom.” Over 130 children and a sprinkling of parents streamed into the large room, the children clutching the little plush dogs they have named and “fostered” over the past ten weeks, holding them close to their hearts, and proudly displaying their bright, yellow Adoption Certificates. I watched from a distance, taking it all in, until one of them recognized me.

“Hey! It’s the lady from the videos!” said one little boy. “Yeah! It’s the dog lady!” said another (no, that did not insult me in the least, if you are wondering), “Hey everybody look, it’s Dr. Lori!”

One hundred heads turned, and then chaos broke loose. Everybody needed my attention, instantly. One young boy with dark, serious eyes held his dog up to me and said, “Dr. Lori, I give my dog tons of respect. On the way here, I used my Adoption Certificate to keep him out of the sun because it’s too hot for him.” Another boy rocked two dogs in his arms. “I’m babysitting for my friend,” he explained quietly. And then voices came from everywhere, “We LOVE your videos! Thank you for your videos!”

I was almost in tears from this outpouring of gratitude when I got up on the stage to lead their Love Pledge – a right of passage before these students would earn the privilege of taking these dogs home with them to “adopt” and become a part of their forever families. I asked the students to place one hand on their heart, and to please repeat after me:

By accepting this certificate, I promise to always be kind to my dog. I promise to love my dog no matter what. I promise to never pull my dog’s tail or be mean in any way. I promise to tell my dog these things: I am so proud of you. You are so special.You are so smart, and I love you – just as you are.

After the ceremony, I planned to wave to the students to say good-bye. But instead, I received over fifty hugs from thrilled, smiling new “pet parents” as they broke away from their teachers to embrace me in a rush of gratitude. I wish I could show you some of their beautiful, beaming faces.

It was one of those moments when it seemed like everyone present could feel the positive energy in the room, the elevated sense that this is what matters, that this is a slice of the good in the world, and what Aristotle must have had in mind when he wrote, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

There are moments, as an entrepreneur, when it feels like I just want to give up. When it feels like the mountain is just too big to climb, the goal is just too big, when I wonder if it’s all worth it, and when I wonder if any of this is making a difference at all. Today, these students reminded me that it absolutely is worth it, and that we really are making an incredible difference in this world, one heart and mind at a time.

Thank you, Sunny Sands teachers, for your amazing work with these children in literacy and in compassion for animals. I am deeply, deeply grateful for your time, for your commitment, and for your invitation to attend today and remind me of what really matters. You are the real reason for this program’s success, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support.

 

10 Animal-Themed Ideas for RAK Week

10 Ways to Inspire Children to Express
Love and Kindness towards Animals

children being kind to animals

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.
–Edmund Burke

We often make the mistake of thinking that kids are “too little” to make a difference, but there is nothing further from the truth. Here are ten fun and engaging ways to help children express love and kindness to animals:

1. Cuddly Book Buddies: If you are a teacher, invite your students to bring a stuffed animal to school to read with a younger grade level. You could arrange for a special visit from your class to another, bringing their pups with them, to snuggle up and read a great book with them. Use this opportunity to plant the seed for children to consider reading with their own animals at home.

2. Give a Little, Get a Lot: Brainstorm a list of things dogs and cats need in their daily lives, and then challenge each child to bring one care item to school (a can of food, a leash for a dog, a cat toy, a tennis ball, a bowl, a blanket, etc.) to create a care package for a local animal shelter. Then involve your class in creating a letter to the animals at the shelter, including a class pic of the kids with their own dogs, and send it to your local shelter. This is such a wonderful way to express compassion for these often very lonely animals.

3. Cook Up Some Goodness: Involve your students in a class cooking project to make dog and cat treats for a local animal rescue group. You can invite each child to bring one ingredient from home to create your masterpiece. Then if possible, actually deliver the treats on a class field trip, along with a class letter to give to the rescue group and its’ animals.

4. Stuffed Buddies for Other Kids: Invite your students to bring a gently-used stuffed animal to school – to donate to a local children’s charity (or even to another school) so they too can have their own reading buddy. Ask each student to write a letter to another child, explaining that this is a new reading buddy for them so they won’t have to be alone as they learn to read.

5. Add a Splash of Creativity and Color: You could have your students create animal-themed bookmarks for a younger class, with each bookmark listing three things kids can do to demonstrate kindness to animals in their lives. You could combine this idea with #1 above to make that experience extra-special!

6. 100 Acts of Kindness: Challenge your students to list 100 kind acts towards animals in their lives for the week. This could mean making sure your pet has clean water every day, offering to take your dog out first thing in the morning, feeding your fish every day, cleaning your hamster’s cage, offering to walk your neighbor’s dog, giving a special treat to your grandma’s cat, or spending extra quality time with your pet this week.

7. Kindness for Animals in Your Community: Cleaning up trash in your neighborhood or even on your school grounds helps to keep both people and animals healthy and safe. Challenge your class to pick up 10 pieces of trash each to help your school stay beautiful and clean, while also preventing animals from eating foil and other items that can be dangerous for them. Remember, animals in the wild do not have doctors or veterinarians to help them if they eat a candy wrapper or some Styrofoam – one way we can help to protect these animals is by cleaning up our trash.

8. Raise a Little Love Money: Hold a “class garage sale” where each child brings in one toy or stuffed animal to donate to the sale, or organize a Valentine’s Day Candy Sale – with all proceeds going towards an animal shelter of their choice!

9. Kindness in Our Everyday Lives: Here’s a great way to encourage children to think about ways they can express simple acts of kindness. In different parts of your classroom, place five poster board signs:
1. Home
2. School
3. Classroom
4. Store
5. Community
Divide your students randomly into five groups, and then have each group brainstorm and list ideas for how they can show kindness to both people and animals in each place. Then come back together as a group to see how many ideas you can generate together. Finally, challenge your students to actually do these acts of kindness over the next week, placing a heart-shaped sticker beside each act of kindness children carry out. ☺

10. Think Beyond Ourselves: Challenge your students to think big about ways they can continue to help animals in their lives, such as asking for donations for an animal rescue group for their next birthday party instead of asking for gifts. There are some wonderful examples of how other children have done this on the Humane Society of the United States website at: http://www.humanesociety.org/parents_educators/kids/kids/.

You might also want to consider subscribing to the Humane Society magazine, Kind News (http://www.humanesociety.org/news/magazines/kind_news/) , which features child heroes for animals.

Download your free “Outstanding Kindness to Animals” certificate for your students now 🙂

Certificate

 

Create Vision Boards with Elementary Students

One of my favorite things about this time of the year is feeling inspired to create and distill my big goals for the next twelve months. I used to reserve a quiet evening each January to snuggle up by the fire with my two little pups and a hot mug of tea so I could dream and write about what I wanted the next year to look and feel like. It was satisfying, but somewhere along the way, I would lose track of my goals and begin to take them less seriously. Often, I even lost that piece of paper, too. 🙂

Then, about five years ago, I learned the art of creating vision boards from my mentor Jack Canfield, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series and The Success Principles. Jack attributes much of his success, both personally and professionally, to the regular practice of creating and using vision boards in his daily life. Since learning to create vision boards, my life has changed in significant ways. I wouldn’t call vision boards “magic,” but I would attribute much of my success directly to the daily, focused attention to and visualization of what I really, really want from this incredible life.

Because of this, I began teaching younger students how to create vision boards of their own. I’ve worked with children as young as seven years old to teach them to articulate what it is their big goals and dreams are for their lives, and it’s always such a heart-warming and exciting experience to learn that what really matters to a lot of children isn’t what we think it might be. I invite you to challenge yourself this year to give your students the tools and strategies they need to learn to believe in themselves, to dream big, and to create the life of their dreams through vision boards. Just watch my video below to learn how!






Get Your Template to Create Vision Boards with Students Now!

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Featured Book: Dex: The Heart of a Hero

51oDBgDcSFL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Have you ever had a conversation with kids about who their favorite super heroes are, and what their superhero’s special powers are? Well Dex isn’t just any superhero – he wasn’t born with special powers. He was an adorable little weiner dog who the author, Caralyn Buehner, describes as looking “like a plump sausage sitting on four little meatballs.” Don’t you already just love this book?

Dex was a dog who didn’t exactly stand out in a crowd. He was slow in games and rarely got noticed by his friends, unless they were making fun of him. But Dex had a dream, and not just any dream. He dreamed he would become a real, live superhero! One day, he decided he wasn’t going to just dream about it – he was actually going to become one. So he took action – he began researching comic books and watching super hero movies. He started training harder and harder, and was thrilled when his little sausage body began to actually develop muscles.

Then the day came when his very own custom super-hero costume arrived on his doorstep. Dex, with the heart of a hero, began helping other little dogs who needed a hand. His friends continued to make fun of him, but he didn’t care. He knew that what he was doing was important and good and kind and right, and his heart had never felt so full. Finally, the day came when one of his friends (who had teased him all along), needed his help. And Dex, because he truly was a hero, bravely saves his friend in danger. In the end, Dex becomes a model for his friend who decides that maybe he might like to become a super hero, too.

This book will inspire children to consider what their own super hero gift might be to the world, and to imagine, if their own pet had a special super hero power, what that power might be. This story teaches children that their dreams can become a reality, no matter how big or impossible they might seem, if they only believe in themselves and gather the courage to take action in small steps every day towards their dreams.

To order your own copy of Dex, The Heart of a Hero on Amazon, just click here.

To learn more about Caralyn Buehner’s great work (and Mark Buehner’s wonderful illustrations), please visit their website by clicking here.

life-is-about-creating