School Commitment to integrating a Community Driven Youth and Sled Dog Program into the Curriculum
- An important administrative consideration:
When establishing sled dog based classes with a local in-kennel component for high school, middle school, and elementary school students, it is important to follow already established district approved guidelines with regard to parental permission and liability insurance. The program startup guidelines proposed in this manual can be altered to better fit each school’s educational policies and procedures.
Example permission forms by category include:
~ Examples of Out-of-Village Field Trip Permission Form (To be added)
- Consideration of course for high school elective credit, science credit and/or college credit.
For high school students, the youth and sled dog program can be part of the curriculum as an elective course, as a science course, or as a course with dual high school and college level credit for the student participant. See CHAPTER FOUR for examples of curriculum and lesson plans for the following:
- For elective credit, veterinary science classes with a kennel workshop component can be taught by any teacher.
- For credit in science toward high school graduation, only an Alaska Board of Education approved class, taught by a certified animal husbandry teacher or science teacher with extensive animal experience will qualify.
- For dual high school/college credit, the University of Alaska Veterinary Medicine Department needs to certify the course.
- Consideration of middle school and elementary school student program participation.
Elementary and middle school students do not take classes for credit toward graduation, however, a curriculum design based on sled dog care and training offers an opportunity for the younger student to learn about dog feeding and general care, dog anatomy, exercise, and the history of dog mushing in Alaska and in their local community. This educational experience could be combined with the youth and sled dog students learning more about human mental and physical health from community elders and, in this way, developing greater pride in their Native heritage. Additionally, these elementary and middle school classes can facilitate the learning of other subjects such as English by way of journal writing and math by way of studying the relationship of time and distance in sled dog racing. These elementary and middle school classes can be a required prerequisite for a subsequent high school veterinary science class taken for graduation and college credit.
- Adapting the student’s school schedule to support the in-kennel workshop portion of sled dog education.
To safely learn about sled dogs in a dog yard, the student needs to pay considerable attention to detail and become comfortable working outdoors. With the academic school year spanning all of the winter months in an extreme Northern state like Alaska, the class scheduling criteria needs to make maximum use of daylight hours and the highest ambient temperature for scheduled outdoor activities. This can best be accomplished by scheduling kennel class times immediately before or after lunch. The ideal amount of time for outdoor classes is 80–90 minutes with an allowance of travel time to and from the kennel. For schools with scheduled class times that are less than 1 hour, the school might extend this time by overlapping the outdoor class with a class in physical education or Native cultural heritage.
- Assigning teachers to teach high school, middle school, and elementary school classes including possible video- conference teaching by other professionals
Local teachers need to be evaluated in terms of their qualifications to teach youth and sled dog program courses that will be eligible for science and/or college credit. Animal husbandry and science teachers with animal care experience are likely to be qualified to teach the class for science credit. If available teachers lack this qualification, the course may only qualify as an elective credit. If there are no teachers available who have these qualifications, another option is to contract with qualified professionals outside the school to teach by way of videoconferencing. Using this option, someone with a background in animal husbandry, such as a veterinary medicine technology certified teacher, could be hired to teach in multiple schools at same time via videoconferencing (see details in CHAPTER THREE). Lastly, the best teachers for this program need to like the outdoors, like working with animals, and be comfortable working with local kennel owners and other people involved in sled dog care and racing.
- Important Essential Outcome Reporting
There are many methods to evaluate the successes and failures of a program but it is critical that an outcome-reporting plan is in place within the program design. The most accepted way to evaluate a program is by using surveys. The first survey would be to identify interest in the community. Then, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of a program, it is important to conduct a pre-, mid-, and post- survey of the community, students, and parent. All surveys should be written by mental health-researchers. A survey of students, parents, and teachers can reveal best practices that can be tracked and measured. Over time, you can identify which evidence-based best practices provide most positive outcomes. Post-surveys can reveal program effectiveness. Ultimately, adjustments can be made to improve the outcome.
Example of surveys:
– Examples of Surveys to Identify Youth Program Interest
- Seeking Funding
Identifying an appropriate potential grant writer has been one of the most challenging parts of supporting a youth & sled dog program. Funding for program essentials, namely dog care supplies, can come from private donors interested in supporting grassroots youth programs, however, it is often difficult to insure funds for more than one year. A consideration in accepting private donations is a programs ability to obtain and sustain a non-profit status. Other funding sources are available with federal organizations with a mission to support grassroots rural community health and welfare development. There are many specialized grants only available to tribal governments including long-term funding sources aiming to support youth education and mental health to which a youth & sled dog program aligns perfectly. No matter what the method of seeking funding, it is important to define the program mission and a clear budget.
Examples of a youth & sled dog program summary, and an operation budget with budget narrative: