Ravel is the first museum education dog in Greece, attached to the University of Crete’s Museum of Natural History and the week-long programs for young children in August.
As curator Lena Borboudaki told Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA), Ravel is an affectionate labrador participating in the museum’s Summer Camp. She said that including an animal in a learning group could accelerate learning and participation. “Developing cognitive abilities and learning are the primary focus of educational programs including the help of animals, and activities including animals offer multiple educational and therapeutic benefits,” she said.
Already, she said, Ravel’s attendance showed that children absorbed lessons and improved skills better. “I’ll give you an example of a young boy, who was afraid of dogs. He not only managed to participate successfully in the program’s activities with Ravel, but he also developed a special relationship with him, overcoming this phobia. At the end of the program, the child’s joy and the parents’ gratitute confirmed for us that collaboration with ‘Mr. Ravel’, as the children call him, was a great choice,” she said.
In another instance of a child with difficulties in communication and integration, the dog’s presence helped the child become more active in the group and reduce its stress levels. She noted that “this was the first time he saw an educational program to completion, as its parents told us, and to have a great week at the musuem, as he himself told us.”
Borboudaki told ANA that “Ravel’s presence liberates many children from stress and anxiety, and contributes to the reduction of aggressive behavior that children sometimes exhibit among themselves, increasing their active listening and participation.” She also said the benefits extended to the museum educators and staff as well, as it provided opportunities to be more creative through new practices.
“This has proved to be one of the most significant initiatives of the University of Crete’s Museum of Natural History,” she noted.