Paragraphs and Pictures: How a Second Grade Class Helped Find New Homes for 24 Shelter Pets
Kensey Jones came up with the great idea at the same time many of us do—right as she was about to fall asleep.
While in bed that January evening, the second-grade teacher at St. Michael's Episcopal School in Richmond, Va., was trying to think of an original idea for a persuasive writing assignment. It soon hit her: What if her kids wrote adoption letters for animals at the local shelter—from the pets' perspective?
Jones volunteers at Richmond Animal Care and Control, and the shelter was game to collaborate. Within weeks, the kiddos had helped 24 pets—23 dogs and one cat—find new homes through well-crafted sentences and some well-drawn pictures.
"I always hold the bar very high for my students, but they exceeded my expectations on how they wrote," Jones tells Daily Paws. " ... They worked hard to get those dogs home."
The process began when Jones got ahold of Christie Peters, RACC's director. She enthusiastically agreed, and Jones had her assignment. Jones's students were excited—even more so when Peters brought a 10-week-old pit bull puppy named Snow to meet the class.
They learned more and more about their assigned pets and the RACC shelter, touring it virtually online and perusing social media. Then it was time to write and draw, and after two and a half days, the paragraphs were ready. And they did an excellent job telling potential adopters why they should bring those dogs home. For example:
Hi my name is Yosemite. I am a boy. I like the animal shelter, but you would be the best! If you're looking for a pet please, please, please take me home. It would really make my day if you adopted me. I love cuddles, kisses and extra love. I'm begging you, please adopt me.
Hi my name is Sleigh Ride! Do you want to adopt me? You can train me if you want! Can you put a heart on my collar? I am a girl. Who are you? You can snuggle with me! I promise that I will be a good dog. You can even sleep with me if you want! I love going on walks and playing outside. I am a medium sized dog. I am getting bored of this place. Would you love me forever? Love, a cute puppy.
Persuasive, right? Jones says they even employed similes, metaphors, and adjectives—and the drawings were quite nice, too. Jones hung them on the dogs' kennels before a weekend adoption event.
"It looked almost like an elementary school hallway," she says.
The dogs started finding their forever homes that Saturday. About eight of them went home that weekend, and then they started to find homes one by one. That week, Jones's students would ask her if their dogs were adopted before she could even say good morning.
It even culminated with an appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show, during which a family who adopted one of the dogs—I'm All Ears—told Jones's student Hattie that her drawing and paragraph had drawn them to their new dog.
"It was pretty incredible," Jones says.
Peters says the students' writing helped draw visitors in as they visited the large, busy shelter. Plus, the writing was honest and not jaded. It was how the kids saw the two dozen pets.
"I think when you read them, you remember how beautiful children's hearts are," she says.
Perhaps the best part? Other shelters and teachers from across the country have reached out to Jones and Peters, asking how they might be able to replicate the assignment and adoptions. (For her part, Jones wishes school was in session now so kids could write about pets when shelters across the country are more crowded.)
"Anything that shelters can do to be more creative in the ways they are essentially marketing their pets can save lives," Peters says.