Two-by-Two: Stuffed dogs and cats help build character - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Two-by-Two: Stuffed dogs and cats help build character

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- Owning a pet requires a lot of work and caring. In the Tri-states, a unique program called Two-by-Two helps kids learn how to be responsible, caring and respectful by being pet owners.

On Tuesday, Eisenhower second-graders received their new "pets" (stuffed dogs and cats). They are learning about character during a five-week program.

The one-of-a kind curriculum is the idea of Kristin Woodward, a former teacher who wanted to help kids improve character.

"I wanted so desperately to make sure our kids grow up with good morals and values, but I also had this other passion, which was animals. I knew how much animals had taught my family and myself and I thought what a great idea to combine the two," Woodward said.

The kids become "foster owners" for the dogs and cats for five weeks, and they can become permanent owners by completing assignments. They learn to be respectful, responsible and kind - not only to their pets, but other people and the environment.

"We hope those values and the things that they're learning today will carry into their real life," Woodward said.

Two-by-Two is non-profit; schools get the program for free with donations, grants, and sponsorships.

"I was really impressed with how they bond with the animals and how their imagination is captured by being invested with the ownership of the animal," Dr. Mary Lynn Neumeister, a Dubuque Veterinarian and sponsor, said after visiting the class.

The kids get homework in many categories: Writing, reading, and math They also show they're keeping their pets safe and happy with a journal.

"They seem to start understanding what empathy is because they can learn that through an animal. Being empathetic, thinking about their feelings, putting their feet in their paws," Woodward said.

The program is in all Dubuque public and parochial schools; It's also in various districts in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Two-by-Two is working on expanding the program. Just recently, the organization trained teachers in New York.

If you'd like to know more about Two-by-Two, click here for their Web site. You can also call 563-513-0059.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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