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Dads, other family members visit Thurston Elementary for Watch D.O.G.S. event

[Oct. 11, 2019]

Dodgeballs of every color were flying through the air at the Thurston Elementary School gym Friday morning, accompanied by a symphony of squeals and giggles as students and parents (mostly dads) gathered for the first Watch D.O.G.S. event of the year.

The event celebrates students’ positive behavior by inviting dads, father figures and other family members and friends to come and play games and run around in the gym a few times a year.

Thurston Elementary students earn cheetah paws, given to students by teachers and other staff who see them modeling safe, respectful and responsible behavior – the school’s motto. Then students can opt to use their cheetah paws to join the WatchD.O.G.S event.

The national program, which has been implemented at more than 6,000 schools across the nation, was launched at Thurston Elementary in 2012 after a couple fathers of students at the school learned of the program from a neighbor.

Rob Stewart is a father of five – two of which currently attend Thurston Elementary School. Stewart was one of the dads who helped to launch the program at the school and said Friday that the program provides a fun and safe place for students to “let loose.”

“I think it’s really a great way for us to give students a space where they can play and spend time with some father figures,” Stewart said. “It’s a blessing for kids who may not have that father figure or whose dad is busy and works a lot. Plus, I get to see my kids!”

Stewart said it’s also great for the community to see a group of dads who don’t know one another to gather together and provide something for the students.

Thurston Elementary Principal Nicki Gorham said the program serves a number of purposes: it allows students to get their energy out and brains going for the school day, increases student attendance rates on early release days and rewards students for their positive behavior – increasing the likelihood that they’ll continue to show such behavior.

“Movement for students is huge,” Gorham said. “It also provides a sense of feeling safe with family around – it helps students to feel more engaged and happy to be here.”

Several students at Friday’s Watch D.O.G.S. event were elated to have their dads around to play dodgeball with, chase around and even cry to.

A couple of students who were overwhelmed by the volume or number of other children were able to draw on a whiteboard with their dad, or stack cups. Other students gathered around a parachute, dads on each side, to bounce dodgeballs in the air.

Stewart, one of the dads, said that the number of dads and other family members who have joined since then has “exploded.”

“When it started, we had maybe five to 10 dads,” Stewart said.

There were more than 30 dads and other family members in the school on Friday.

To view more photos from the event, visit the SPS Flickr link at: flickr.com/photos/springfieldps/albums