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Northeast Times | January 18, 2022

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Justin students use art to entice dog adoption

Justin students use art to entice dog adoption

To help students learn important art techniques, teachers often use self-portrait lessons that incorporate these elements. For students at Justin Elementary School, however, they had a subject they all agreed was much more interesting to paint – dogs.

As part of their art lessons, students painted portraits of real dogs available for adoption from the Justin-based organization Apollo Support & Rescue. The in-class project combined teaching students their art techniques with the goal of getting dogs adopted, as their portraits would be used to encourage potential owners to bring home new pets.

Justin art teacher Meagan White said she created the project when she and her husband found a stray dog on the highway and worked with Apollo to find it a new home.

“While we were waiting, we met some other pups, and we spent time talking to employees about the needs of the shelter,” she said. “I love connecting our art lessons with purpose out in the community and showing our students that their art can have an impact.”

Mrs. White, who has two adopted pets of her own, added that she hopes students felt an emotional connection to the project. Part of that connection for students, she explained, is not just enjoying dogs as an art subject, but seeing the difference they can make for the lives of the dogs they selected to paint portraits of when people adopt them.

Students said they enjoyed the project, as many had pets of their own and wanted to see the dogs they selected to have a chance to find homes.

Cohen Gallagher, a fourth-grade student, said seeing the photos of dogs at the shelter reminded him of his own pets.

“I want to try and help the dog shelter because not all dogs have families,” he said. “I got one of my dogs from the pound, and I got one dog from a shelter. It’s cool that this project lets us paint dogs to help others adopt them. If I saw these paintings, I’d probably run to my parents and tell them to get me a dog – I love it.”

To create their artwork, students began by outlining the dogs’ photos with a wax transfer technique to gather all the finer details and lines of the animals’ faces. Once the outlines were complete, students mixed paints together to create colors closely matching fur seen in the original photos.

Multiple local businesses committed to hanging the students’ paintings in their establishments, which Mrs. White said would help students see their influence in their hometown. Once the artwork is around town, Mrs. White and her class plan to keep track of the dogs to see the power of her students’ work.

Fourth-grader Brooklyn Vercher said she was eager to work on the project as soon as Mrs. White revealed it because she hopes local businesses hanging her and her classmates’ artwork will spur the adoption process.

“It’s a really cool idea because these paintings are going to hang up and people are going to see that they can look up the dog name or scan it, and they’ll be able to find the dog to adopt it,” she said.

Mrs. White said the response to the project has been overwhelmingly supportive. Justin Elementary School’s Facebook page posted about the project and received positive feedback from parents.

“We had several community members in awe of our students’ hearts as they took on this project,” Mrs. White said. “Our school Facebook page was going crazy when we posted the first pictures of our progress. I remember one parent shared that her daughter came home so excited about the project every day. I loved hearing that our learning is valued beyond the four walls of my classroom.”

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2019-20 issue of Northwest Navigator magazine.