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The St. Petersburg Police Department offers a unique and likely first of its kind program that is designed to teach elementary and middle school children about bullying prevention and/or stranger danger.
Amos the Wonder Horse™ is a volunteer equine officer with the Police Department. As a registered therapy horse, he is uniquely qualified to work with a variety of individuals. With “Just Say Whoa to Bullying™”, he helps facilitate the program with Officer Janie Staples. She tells Amos’ story about being a little horse among large horses, the differences between the two, and the challenges he faces. She uses the familiar equine term “whoa” and explains how it means “stop”, equating the two to how children can stop bullies. Using Amos and his story, Officer Staples teaches children and provides interaction and opportunities for learning. Skills learned include kindness, compassion, empathy, respect, patience, and responsibility. She encourages children to say “no” to these behaviors and situations, and she encourages them to work with trusted adults to solve the problems.
Amos’ unique skill set enhances the program when Officer Staples shows the children his ability to play basketball. This proves that even though you’re different, it doesn’t mean you should be bullied – and it is those differences that can make you special.
Children are even given a chance to pet Amos and interact with him and Officer Staples. This provides a unique opportunity for the children as this is often their first encounter with a law enforcement official. With a therapy animal present, it makes the officer more approachable. The children are often more likely to participate and ask questions.
We have also noted an increased length of attention span from audiences, as well as a marked increase in retention of information. Officer Staples has also noted that she is more often recognized outside of the school, with children approaching her to discuss Amos and bullying prevention.
Shelly Mizarhi (owner of Amos the Wonder Horse™) volunteers her time with Amos and brings him out to the schools for Officer Staples to use in her presentations about Bullying Prevention and Stranger Danger. Shelly adopted Amos and realized quickly he was a special horse. He learned to play basketball in three short 15 minute blocks. Amos also shakes hands and he can paint too. Amos is a miniature horse and is 14 years old. He is a little horse with a lot of personality.
The two programs Officer Staples and Amos offer:
“Just Say Whoa to Bullying™” program is geared for 1st grade up to 6th grade. The program takes approximately 15-30 minute and depends on whether or not the principal wants to have a petting time. The classes can be done individually or in one large assembly. Being outside and away from a grassy area is a preferred location for the presentation; however, Amos can go inside if bad weather or other problems occur. School visits should be limited to less than one and half hours.
“Just Say Whoa to Strangers™” program is geared for Pre-Kindergarten and up to 1st Grade. Officer Staples talks to children about staying away from strangers and staying where their parents can see them and they can see their parents. The program is approximately 10-25 minutes long and can be done in small classes or one large assembly. The presentation is preferred to be held outside and away from a grassy area; however, Amos can go inside if bad weather or other problems occur. School visits should be limited to less than one and half hours.
For further questions or to schedule a visit, please call Officer Staples at (727)892-5082 or email at Janie.Staples@stpete.org