Students at the Gifft Hill School are pitching in their pennies to help the island’s abandoned animals. The school’s “Pennies for Puppies” program kicked off this year after students from kindergarten through fifth grade read books about dogs during their summer break, explained GHS literacy coach Terri Parker.
“Each class had a book to read over the summer that had to do with dogs,” said Parker. “When the students returned this month, our back to school activities were related to those stories they had read over the summer.”
While younger students read stories about cute dogs and puppies, older students read books in which the dogs face difficult situations, explained Parker.
“The older kids’ books had something to do with an issue about pet care and pets,” said the literacy coach. “In addition to discussing the books, we wanted to relate what they had read to their lives. We also wanted to start a program so that all students would recognize how they are part of the community and that they could do something to help.”
“We talked about what we could do about these types of things that happen on St. John and one way was by supporting the Animal Care Center,” said Parker.
Stories like Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo and A Dog on His Own by Mary Jane Auch, detail how animals are sometimes abused and abandoned.
“Shiloh, a Newbery Medal winning book, is about a little beagle who is being abused by its owner and a young boy who is trying to protect the puppy,” said Parker. “Just like the boy in the story, we discussed what students could do to help an abused animal.”
While the “Pennies for Puppies” program was actually conceived in May before the summer break, recent news of the St. John Animal Care Center’s dire financial straits underscored the need to support the group, Parker added.
“As we were discussing with the students what we could do to help animals here on St. John, they decided they wanted to bring in their spare change to support the Animal Care Center,” she said. “This was all decided back in May before we knew that the ACC needed financial help. Now it’s certainly perfect timing.”
Students have been donating their spare change all month and will welcome a special guest this week when ACC president Diana Ripley brings her furry friend Marigold to the school.
GHS students will continue to collect their spare change for the “Pennies for Puppies” program for the next few months. The program will culminate on November 12 when the entire GHS student body will celebrate “Give Back Day,” explained Parker.
“November 12 is going to be our big ‘GHS Gives Back’ day where every student will be doing something for the community or having some kind of outreach,”said the GHS literacy coach. “That will be our closing activity for the program.”
In addition to working with Ripley, GHS lower school head Beth Knight and GHS parent, board member and Canines, Cats and Critters owner Joe Palminteri have been long time supporters of the St. John ACC.
For more information about the island’s no-kill shelter and how to help keep its doors open, call the ACC at 774-1625 or check out www.stjohnanimalcarecenter.com.