When schools have faced challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as remote learning and staff shortages, they have been looking for new ways to engage their students and give them the tools to help them cope with a stressful, constantly-evolving situation.
In Des Plaines, Community Consolidated School District 62 turned to Bouncy the Service Dog, a breathing animatronic therapy dog that helps young children feel safe and learn how to self-calm when stressed.
Bouncy in the classroom
Early childhood special education teacher Anita Compart of the Westerhold Early Learning Center has been using Bouncy in preschool classrooms through a pilot program to demonstrate age-appropriate social and emotional skills in an innovative way.
In addition to using Bouncy’s Ready to Learn Resilience Program that includes music videos, apps and coloring books, Compart encouraged her students to play with Bouncy. During breaks, kids can participate in activities like petting him, grooming him or engaging in imaginative play such as having a tea party together.
“Through group activities, as well as individual interventions, I have seen Bouncy provide a positive and proactive impact on our students,” says Compart. “Students are learning appropriate behavior inside and outside of school, about how to encourage themselves intrinsically with self-talk, and how to use age-appropriate calming strategies to be calm and strong when they are struggling with big feelings.”
To further integrate Bouncy into daily lessons, the speech pathologist in Compart’s district relied on Bouncy to help teach other subjects, such as math and language arts. Once learning went remote for the district during the pandemic, Compart created a virtual classroom complete with a Bouncy bitmoji, since Bouncy was such an integral part of the classroom.
According to Bouncy’s creator, Ripple Effects, Bouncy offers all of the supports mental health experts agree young children need to thrive despite stressors like the pandemic.
“Our timing for introducing Bouncy was serendipitous,” says Alice Ray, CEO of Ripple Effects. “As young learners continue to grapple with the impact of COVID-19 disruptions on school and their lives, he provides them with the support they need to cope with stress and stay calm.”
Bouncy’s SEL program includes a full teacher kit with books, apps, activities and music videos plus a school-to-home connection package to help young students develop self-regulation skills and build confidence.
Compart, who empowers her students to use their “Bouncy breathing techniques” throughout the school day, says that as a result of Bouncy, the school is seeing a decrease in student outbursts and disruptive behaviors.
“Bouncy has been a constant companion for our students during this unprecedented time in education,” says Compart. “As the pendulum between remote and in-person learning has swung back and forth, Bouncy has remained consistent.”
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