First-grade students gift handmade toys to local shelter pups
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s the season of giving. While you may not have wrapped all your presents yet, a couple of APS classrooms are already getting thank-you cards for the gifts they gave to a very special group.
Lowell Elementary first graders not only gave dog toys to area animal shelters, but the students even made the presents by hand in class.
“When these rescued dogs found out what you did for these shelter dogs, they told us that we needed to do something for you,” Animal Protection of New Mexico Humane Educator Sherry Mangold told the classroom full of first graders, as they eagerly waited to see what she had in her bag.
Mangold called for their teachers, Norma Dominguez and Mikeala Ortega, to come to the front of the classroom to help hand out the thank-you cards shelter dogs “made” for the students. Each one was personalized with a photo and a paw print.
Earlier this year, the students made dog toys to be given to dogs at Albuquerque’s animal shelters by braiding colorful strips of fleece together and tying off both ends.
“I asked the teachers, would you like to do this? And they said yes because at that age they want them to work on their skills with their hands and eye coordination, so braiding the fleece strips and tying knots was perfect for them,” Mangold explained.
“Some of the kids did not know how to braid, especially the boys,” Dominguez said. “But the girls took a hold of it and started teaching other kids how to do it.”
After all the toys were made, Mangold delivered the presents to multiple Albuquerque Animal Welfare shelters – she even helped hand them out.
“A lot of [the dogs] just took them very quickly and started shaking them around. We had several jump up on the kennel, really interested in what we were giving them,” Animal Welfare Community Engagement Coordinator Tara Mansker said.
Back in the classroom on Friday, the kids were just as excited as the dogs as they were eagerly sharing what their dog’s name was.
“My dog’s name is Chonk!” First grader Audrey Astorga said excitedly holding up her thank you card showing a picture of a white and brown dog proudly holding a fleece toy in his mouth. “My friend Lorie got Peanut, he’s also cute. “
While most of the kids saw this activity as a fun break from their normal schoolwork, their teachers say it really is a lesson on the importance of giving back to the community.
“It’s a feel-good project its good for the animals and the children it’s wonderful to see the animals excited to get their new toy, it’s wonderful to see the children get involved in the project and be excited about it,” Animal Welfare Outreach Program Manager Julie Buckland said.
Buckland, Mansker, and Mangold didn’t stop with the thank you cards, they also made each classroom a posterboard covered in photos of the dogs playing with their new toys in the shelter.
“It was really nice that they took the time to get all those paw prints to get all those pictures so they could give something back to the kiddos who made the toys,” teacher Mikaela Ortega said.
The class made nearly 40 dog toys. Since the partnership with Lowell Elementary was so successful this year, Animal Protection of New Mexico is already looking forward to next year’s project.