THEY HAVE BEEN MAN’S best friend for thousands of years.
But only now are the benefits of learning with dogs being realised in Welsh classrooms.
Schools in south-west Wales have opened their doors to humble hounds in a bid to raise pupils’ confidence and self-esteem.
The innovative ‘Burns By Your Side’ scheme helps children in a variety of settings to develop their reading and communication skills.
One head teacher has spoken of the ‘calming effect’ it has had on pupils with special educational needs.
The scheme provides targeted pupils with the opportunity to read – on a weekly or fortnightly basis – to a volunteer and their dog, usually in sessions running over the course of a school term.
Typically, a volunteer will spend around 15 minutes with a child on an individual basis and keep a short record of each session.
To date, the scheme has involved a small number of schools (primary, secondary and special) and settings – such as libraries and nurseries – across the south-west Wales region.
An initial study to explore the impact of bringing dogs into classrooms, facilitated by researchers at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) Yr Athrofa – Institute of Education, has unearthed some promising results.
All schools and all children involved have reported favourably on the initiative and teachers have noted that pupils respond positively to the presence of the dogs, look forward to sessions and are keen to take part.
Helen Lewis, Primary PGCE Programme Lead and UWTSD’s Burns By Your Side co-ordinator, said: “The dog is a non-judgemental listener, whose very presence may calm and relax reluctant and anxious readers.
“With well-versed handlers acting to support the reading process, the act of reading to a dog can support children in making meaning of text and can encourage them to express personal responses in a safe environment.
“Dogs do not judge, glance at their watch if it is taking a long time to read a page, or sigh in frustration at mistakes – they are willing companions and their silence speaks volumes.”
Following the success of the reading with dogs pilot study, Burns By Your Side is now working with UWTSD and a greater number of schools in order to undertake a more rigorous body of research.
Organisers are conducting a mixed-methods, systematic review into the impact of reading with dogs on metacognition, attitudes to learning and reading levels in classrooms across South Wales.
In each of the 12 schools currently engaged with the project, four to six children who are struggling to make progress in reading have been identified and receive weekly sessions with the visiting dog and handler.
At the start of the project the children were given baseline assessments, such as standardised reading tests and other measures of attitude towards learning.
A similar group of children who were not in the intervention group were also given the same tests to provide a control measure.
At the end of the intervention, which will have lasted for an academic year, the tests will be repeated and results analysed.
Coracle photos sought for Welsh Week
CARMARTHEN CORACLE & Netsmen’s Association has asked for anyone associated with the historic industry to send their photos and stories to them, to be used as part of a week-long celebration.
The Association will be proudly supporting Carmarthen’s Welsh Week, which begins on February 24 and finishes with a town parade on March 3.
Throughout the week, coracles will be proudly displayed at various locations around the town. Each coracle will symbolise Carmarthen’s oldest fishing tradition, which also represents the 2018 Wales tourism theme of ‘Year of the Sea’.
“During the 18th and 19th century, Carmarthen’s port was thriving, with huge cargo ships regularly visiting, its quayside bustling with traders and numerous warehouses. Too poor to live within the town’s boundary wall, the large coracle fishing families lived in tiny, damp cottages along the river bank,” a spokesperson for CC&NA said.
“Strangely enough, through time, it is only the coracle which has survived the major changes to Carmarthen’s quayside.”
To celebrate the unique heritage of Carmarthen’s coracle, the Association would like to honour the fishing families of bygone years by displaying a small selection of photos at each coracle located around Carmarthen town.
They are appealing to anyone who may have belonged to a coracle family to send a copy of your photo and any stories or memories they may have. The photos will then be proudly displayed inside each coracle for visitors to follow a ‘Coracle Trail’ around the town.
Any photos can be emailed firstname.lastname@example.org or sent via Facebook to ‘Carmarthen Coracle and Netsmen’s Association’.
Volunteers offer to wrap your gifts
A SCHEME set up by volunteers to wrap presents in the lead up to Christmas launched last Saturday (Dec 2).
Wrapped in Love, a new scheme in conjunction with Llanelli Town Council, will now be wrapping presents at Llanelli’s Indoor Market every Saturday between 10am and 3pm before Christmas.
Volunteers from Ty Gwyn Community Church have a stall situated outside Blodau Elli flower shop and are more than happy to wrap two presents per visitor for free.
Minister of Ty Gwyn Ivan Parker said: “A couple of our younger leaders had an idea to do something different and decided they’d like to offer a free Christmas wrapping service, in the run up to the festivities.
“It’s a big help for a lot of people. Not everyone likes wrapping presents and we’ve had a really good response here today. This is the first week of our launch and it’s something that we’ll be doing annually. The Town Council loved the idea and are on board with us.
“We want to connect with people and show that we care. I’ve been Minister at Ty Gwyn since 2006 and I love my vocation.
“We’re here every Saturday prior to Christmas and everyone is welcome. We supply all of the wrapping paper and some added extras of bows and tags if needed.
“There are 39 volunteers involved with this project over the duration of the next four weeks and we alternate doing a two and a half hour slot each.
“The spookiest thing for a few has been us approaching them, some have thought that we’re trying to sell them something. It’s been rather amusing when they’ve realised this isn’t the case.
“We also have white tote bags with information on our services and an invitation to our coffee morning at Ty Gwyn every Monday from 10am-2pm. Everyone is welcome and there is a token for a free cup of coffee.”
Curry evening raises funds for Twinning Association
THE LLANELLI and District Twinning Association held a successful and enjoyable curry evening recently, which raised over £600 to enable the association to carry on its work.
The packed-out fundraiser was held in Trinity Road’s Ali Raj establishment was packed out and everyone enjoyed the delicious buffet, plus raffle and an auction.
Llanelli Town Mayor Cllr Jeff Edmunds was in attendance, Chair of Llanelli Rural Council John Evans, Rural and County Councillors, Llanelli Town Council as well as many members of community organisations such as The Multicultural Network, The Community Partnership, Llanelli Tenants Network, Llanelli Ramblers, The Visually Impaired Bowls Club and The Sosban Shredders.
Chair of The Twinning Association Paolo Piana said: “It was a well attended evening with over 70 people, many different agencies attended. Involving a wide cross section of the community is a vital role within the Twinning Association, it gives people the opportunity across Llanelli and the surrounding areas to take part in community led activities and events. I’m thankful to everyone that donated prizes to the raffle and the auction and for being so supportive.”
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