Students Learn Life Skills Through Animal Friends Project

Students at the Education Center Sewickley recently worked on a project, making and selling dog toys to benefit a local animal shelter, Animal Friends. Starting in February, students in Michelle Hartley’s classroom, which focuses on improving life skills, began collecting donated t-shirts from staff so they could rip them into strips and braid them together, making the tug of war toys.

The project’s focus was to improve the students’ abilities to perform functional tasks and activities of daily living, while also stressing the importance of community involvement and helping others. Cutting, tearing and tying the t-shirts provided occupational therapy for the students, most of whom have an Autism Spectrum Disorder or neurological impairments.

The fundraiser “was a big hit and we ended up raising $500!” said Hartley, special education teacher at the Watson Institute.

Once the fundraiser was completed and the money was collected, Hartley scheduled a visit to Animal Friends to present the check and allow the students to tour the facility, visiting with a therapy dog, playing with the cats, and even feeding the bunnies!

Not only did the students have a great experience learning about animal safety and interacting with the shelter animals, they were also invited to choose names for four incoming animals! Hartley allowed the students to vote on the names, landing on: Angel, Leisel, Flash and Flopsy. Working together in a group on this project provided the students an essential opportunity to improve their social skills and communication.