'They believe they can make a difference'

LYNNWOOD — Glenna, a 6-year-old, sleepy-eyed Dalmatian, lives in a kennel at PAWS.

Officials for PAWS, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, would love to see her go to a good home, but they know she has some flaws. Glenna, who was given up by her former owner a few weeks ago, is distrustful and shy, and probably wouldn't do well in a home with young children.

However, a group of first- and third-graders at Spruce Primary School in Lynnwood is determined to see her get adopted. Since October, the students have had a partnership with the Lynnwood-area shelter in which they learn about the animals up for adoption and then write essays about some of them for PAWS' Web site.

"They believe they can make a difference, and that's the type of attitude you want in children," said Anna Walter, a Spruce third-grade teacher involved in the project.

All of the 20 dogs and cats they have written profiles about this school year have been adopted.

"It's definitely gotten people more excited about coming in," said Sheridan Thomas, who oversees the first-year project, a part of PAWS' Kids Who Care campaign.

It was Spruce first-grade teacher Jennie Warmouth who came up with the essay idea.

In the past, she said, her class held fund-raisers for PAWS, but a new Edmonds School District policy prohibits such activities. She still wanted her students to be involved with animals, so she contacted Thomas about ways to help. During a class trip to PAWS, Warmouth suggested that her students write stories about the animals.

Thomas liked the idea because it was a way to get kids involved in helping animals. Warmouth, meanwhile, saw educational opportunities, such as practicing descriptive writing, sentence structure and using technology.

The instructors believe the exercise teaches compassion and respect for animals. Students also learn that some of the most frail and troubled animals may be euthanized if not adopted.

Technology is a big component of the project. Once a week, Thomas e-mails Warmouth's class a photo of an animal up for adoption. PAWS volunteers then e-mail the students daily, telling them about the animals' characteristics.

Glenna, for example, "is a very sweet, good-natured and mild dog who likes to give you her right paw and likes her nose petted."

The students use this information as they write their profiles.

Once a week, Walter's third-graders come into Warmouth's class and help the younger kids with ideas on how to best organize and illustrate the information. The students then write a profile and e-mail it back to PAWS, where it is posted online at www.paws.org.

"It's so empowering to see how creative teachers can be when given a little technology," said Spruce Principal Lynda Tripp, noting the need for improved technology around the school district.

Third-grader Scott Swanby said students feel good knowing they have helped make a difference.

"A lot of people want animals, but they don't know enough about them," he said. "We want to get them more information."

As for Glenna, the students decided people going to the PAWS Web site would want to know she's "a loving dog with uniquely colored eyes: one is brown and one is blue! ... Glenna needs a little bit of TLC to recover from the loss of her prior owner."

J.J. Jensen: 425-745-7809 or jjensen@seattletimes.com