This year, a group of students at Alliston Union had the privilege of participating in the COPE Dogs Canines in the Classroom. The program has been running for several years within the Simcoe County District School Board as a credit in the high school setting at Nantyr and Bear Creek secondary schools.
COPE’s mission is to provide a remarkable education program that engages communities and empowers students and others in the training of service dogs that will transform the lives of people with disabilities.Through Canines in the Classroom students achieve curriculum objectives by training a COPE dog to become a service dog that will eventually be placed as a helping partner for a person with a physical disability, or doing community visits to locations such as hospitals and nursing homes.
As part of the program students follow a set curriculum to assist with training the dogs to work with people with disabilities. Students in the program create a unique bond with the dog they are paired with, creating trust and loyalty as well as building self-confidence. Throughout the process students learn skills to communicate effectively verbally, non-verbally and in writing. COPE promotes sense of volunteerism, ties to community and promotion of resilience. It also serves to raise awareness, inclusiveness and foster empathy in the school population.
Students at Alliston Union recently gathered to celebrate their successes in the program this year with their dogs, friends, family members and community partners. As a part of this celebration, they shared this video documenting some of the student learning and excitement that COPE brought to our school. Thanks to Michelle Orchard, one of the fabulous teachers that supports the COPE program, for her work on the video which clearly shows what a valuable opportunity this has been!