PAWS AND REFLECT: St. Teresa’s creative crusade against canine waste

March 22, 2024

The welcome sign of St. Teresa Catholic Elementary School has been giving passerby reasons to stop.

Take this message in January, for example.

“Kids at play. Keep dog poop away. There is no poop fairy.”

School Welcome Sign outside


Despite appearances, the information campaign isn’t an act of vandalism. The unique communication outreach is part of an ongoing student-led communications campaign to get people in the neighbourhood talking about a common problem – dog poop.

It’s the brainchild of teacher Jana Lee Lynde’s Grade 5 class, who have taken a Deep Learning project from the classroom into the community to deter locals from leaving dog waste on the schoolground and surrounding public park. 

“Do you know how many bacteria are found in a single gram of dog poop?,” one of the students asks classroom visitor, Peterborough Mayor Jeff Leal. “Twenty-three million!”

Grade 5 student Monroe McKinley, chosen as a spokesperson for her class, articulates the poop problem with aplomb.

People are leaving dog poop in our yard and not picking it up. They are also letting their dogs go off leash during school hours,” McKinley says. “The dog poop problem adversely affects us because we are trying to keep our students safe and healthy all throughout school. We are using our communication skills and Catholic Graduate Expectations to solve our problem.”

In the Deep Learning model, teachers step back and allow students to run with an area of interest while facilitating learning opportunities and ensuring alignment with the Ontario curriculum.

This Grade 5 class has welcomed visitors to the classroom and called on local experts as they researched the challenge at their school. They learned from the Peterborough Humane Society that the number of dogs in the community has increased substantially thanks to “COVID pups,” dogs adopted during the pandemic, which may correlate to a rise in dog poop. Peterborough Public Health shared information with the students about the harmful bacteria living in fecal matter. The Board’s facilities department worked with students to design new signs for the school yard asking dog owners to pick up after their pets.

“We have been experiencing incidents of dogs running loose on school property and lots of dog poop in our yard. It is making a mess in our yard and is tracked inside our school, as well as exposing the children who play here to very harmful bacteria,” Lynde explained. “So, our students are learning to use their voices to make positive change.”

Those voices got the ear of Mayor Leal on Thursday, March 21, 2024, as he visited the classroom to hear firsthand from the students about their awareness campaign. 

Visitors talking to a classroom

“You’ve really highlighted a key issue,” said Leal, who invited the students to visit the council chambers at City Hall. “As a community, this issue affects our collective enjoyment of our public parks, our ability for families and children to use public parks.”

Following the Mayor’s visit, the Grade 5 class took their outreach into the neighbourhood, dropping off flyers to local homes 

“We are asking for your help to spread the word to keep our school yard a safe place for us to play,” the flyer reads.