Hemi is a 175# Great Pyrenees who works with 8th graders at a Middle School in Knoxville, TN. Hemi is a H.A.B.I.T. dog who works in the Ruff Reader Program.
H.A.B.I.T. (Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee) is a program run by the University of TN College of Veterinary Medicine. The organization sponsors programs which foster pet visitation to nursing homes, assisted-living residences, retirement centers, mental health centers, residences for children with special needs, rehabilitation facilities, hospital settings, and schools. H.A.B.I.T., which was established in 1986, medically and behaviorally screens animals and trains their volunteer owners regarding pet visitations.
Every Friday, Hemi patiently sits and listens to 8th graders practice their reading. The students also take turns lovingly brushing his long white fur. The fur was collected and sent out to be spun into yarn. I worked with the students for 1 week to create dream catchers, using the fur yarn. Students each created a small dream catcher for themselves and worked together to create a large one to be auctioned off to help support H.A.B.I.T. programs.
Since this was a literacy-based program, I started each day by reading a different dream catcher legend and discussing it. On the first day, students wrapped yarn around a 7" metal ring, completely covering it. On the second day, students were provided with a pattern and taught the half hitch knot to create the web. Students who mastered to technique were paired up with classmates who needed further instruction. Teaching others helped reinforce the learned skill. On the third day, students created dog themed beads with polymer clay. They used molds, cookie cutters, and clay extruders. On the fourth day, students added fringe to their dream catchers. Very little instruction was given and the students were encouraged to create their own design. Some of the kids initially did not like the lack of structure and started copying their classmates, but, by the end of the class, each was happily going his own way. It was fun to watch them decide how much fringe, length of fringe, and location of fringe. On the last day, students added the beads they had made on day three. They used a hand drill to add holes to the beads as needed. Beads were strung onto the yarn fringe using a dental floss threader and secured in place with an overhand knot.
Neatness was encouraged throughout the project. Students were taught design terms like variegated, balance, scale, symmetry and asymmetry. They also learned various knots and Native American folklore. IEP goals like listening, patience, following directions, problem solving, attention span and attempting a novel task were addressed. While working on the group project, students were required to state their design ideas and respectfully critique the ideas presented by others. The students stated they enjoyed to experience of making the dream catchers.
For more information on H.A.B.I.T., please contact them at:
H.A.B.I.T., Department of Comparative Medicine, 2407 River Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996
(I wrote this article for first publication in ADVANCE for Occupational Therapy Practitioners.)Special Education Art Project - Making Dream Catchers