The Healing Species: Animal-Assisted Character Education for Improving Student Behavior

Wanda J. Pearson


The Healing Species program aims to reduce disruptive behaviors at school by increasing students’ abilities to avoid conflict when possible and to resolve conflicts peaceably when they occur. The program’s 11 lessons incorporate elements of behavior theory that postulate behavior follows belief. This study hypothesized that 5th and 6th grade students who completed the Healing Species curriculum would show fewer normative beliefs favoring aggression, greater empathy, and fewer disciplinary infractions, than a comparable group of students who did not receive the Healing Species program. Lessons included the participation of rescued dogs to emphasize compassion, empathy, responsibility, and forgiveness. Study results offered evidence of improved overall behavior and specific reductions in violence and aggression.

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