Dads help for the day at Mize Elementary
Steve Hoover said lunchtime at Mize Elementary School was particularly chaotic. Watching students at lunch was part of his job last week, as Hoover volunteered for a day at the school as part of the Watch D.O.G.S. program.
Mize is one of several schools in USD 232 to start the Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program. The program encourages dads to volunteer at their child's school for a day. Hoover found out about the program from other dads in the Kansas City area who had been to their children's schools.
"I knew as soon I heard the announcement that I wanted to be involved in this program," Hoover said. "I am already active in my daughter's activities like sports and other stuff. I think it's really important."
Mize principal Pam Hargrove said the program has been popular so far with students and staff. She said the school has many regular volunteers, but fewer of them are dads.
"It makes the dads feel good as a positive male role model in a predominantly female business," Hargrove said. "Now, the dads don't get to spend all day with their child, but we try to set it up so they get recess together."
Since the program started in November, the school has had 15 dads participate. She said a typical day for the dads includes welcoming students in the morning and supervising the lunch period.
"Our dads do a variety of activities involving safety and security," Hargrove said. "They volunteer in classes and spend a lot of time in lunch and recess to see the kids and be seen."
Hoover said the teachers usually have a separate activity planned for him to help out with, but other times it is one-on-one work with flash cards or homework. His day at Mize included helping out at the computer lab, playing a matching game with kindergartners and teaching math with breakfast cereal.
"The kids took the marshmallows out of the cereal and put them into groups by color," Hoover said. "They were learning about ratios, so I told them how to turn the cereal into a math problem."
Another important component to the Watch D.O.G.S. program is safety. The program was founded in 1998 by a concerned father in response to a school shooting near his home. Today the focus is more on parental involvement, but Hargrove said safety is still part of the agenda.
"The dad patrols the school three to four times in the day," Hargrove said. "If they see an incident or something that needs to be taken care of, they inform the office."
Hargrove said the most important part of the program is reconnecting dads with schools. It's a good connection with the community, she said.
"I think for us it's a way to invite stakeholders in our children's education to participate with us," Hargrove said. "It's good for the kids to have another adult around who is interested in them."
One of the tenets of the Watch D.O.G.S. program is that spending time with children is an important way to volunteer in a community. Hoover said one of the things he learned was that children thirst for adult interaction.
"The kids like to talk to an adult who isn't their teacher," Hoover said. "It means a lot to them to tell you what they're doing for Spring Break."