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Teaching Intrinsic Motivation to “Lend a PAW” Earns 4th Award

teachers and kids with a bookkids show book pagesIt’s a four-peat for Smallwood Drive Elementary School as it earned a Promising Practice award from Character.org for the fourth year in a row. Smallwood Drive was one of eight schools in New York State to achieve the recognition from the national organization that fosters character development in children and teens.

Smallwood Drive’s “Lend a PAW” initiative was the brainchild of the school mindfulness committee which felt strongly that students can recognize a need in others, understand the feelings of others and put their thoughts about others into action to “pay it forward”.

“Our ‘Lending a Paw’ program has been the perfect way to teach and reinforce empathy, compassion and kindness for one another,” said Smallwood Drive Principal Rich Crozier. “Our main goal with this initiative was to help students internalize the positive feelings one feels when they help others. In addition, we also wanted students to reflect on their own feelings when someone lent them a paw in return. In our first normal school year since the global pandemic, our team recognized the importance of reaching out and connecting to someone you may not know and showing an interest in them. We encourage our entire school community to make connections with one another routinely.”

Mr. Crozier visited 32 homerooms in September to tell students what “Lend a PAW” was about and ask them to write or draw pictures of how they might “Lend A PAW” this school year. Throughout the school year, Mr. Crozier used over 100 of the responses in morning announcements for students or morning meetings with staff.

The drawings were used to write a comic book called “Roary Lends A Paw.”  Roary is the school mascot who is featured in a video series with school social worker Mrs. Noe. Together they created hundreds of videos teaching students strategies on how to manage strong emotions and feelings. The 12-page book that features examples of students from grades Pre-K through 5 in our school lending a PAW. Each student received a copy of the book.

Other actions taken this school year included:

  • Provided veterans with gift baskets on Veterans day
  • Donated food to a local food pantry
  • Celebrated one of our own when she defeated cancer and rang the survivor bell
  • Met a Principal challenge of kindness and raised over $17,000 for the American Heart Association
  • Created a chain of connections for primary students to document how they felt when someone supported them
  • Creating a segment on our TV announcements capturing how the initiative is making a difference in our school

“We are thrilled to be recognized by Character.org for the fourth year in a row,” said Mr. Crozier. “But more important than the recognition is the impact that it has had on our entire Smallwood community.”

Previous Promising Practice awards earned by Smallwood Drive were:

  • 2022 - “Use Your Voice” 
  • 2021 - “Mantra Monday”
  • 2020 - “Power of a Puppet” 

Principal with a bookBulletin BoardLend a Paw