Jake Reimers helps his daughter, Olivia, with a classroom project at Minter Creek Elementary School during his day working with the school’s new WatchDOGS program. Photo by Ed Johnson, KP News

Walking down the halls of any Key Peninsula elementary school reveals the hustle and bustle of learning in action.

Students creating projects, volunteer moms helping with reading groups, teachers decoding the mysteries of math, or grandmothers putting up colorful bulletin boards are just a few examples of the energy in education. Many times though, there is an element missing: dads.

The shortage of “father figure” involvement is not a new dilemma, and an Arkansas school in 1998 sought to change this trend with the creation of the Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students). Since its inception, the program has grown to national recognition and built a network of more than 3,156 schools in 46 states.

Minter Creek Elementary became the first KP school to partner with WatchDOGS beginning this year. The program kickoff occurred on Sept. 26 with more than 200 in attendance. From there, the leadership team organized the volunteers, set up schedules, coordinated with the PTA, and welcomed the first dad into Minter Creek Elementary on Oct. 7.

The overarching goal of WatchDOGS, part of the National Center for Fathering, is providing positive male role models to demonstrate that education is important. Beyond this, having extra eyes and ears can help to reduce bullying.

Ty Robuck, Minter Creek Elementary principal, agrees with this and hopes the program will be a “door for dads to be connected with our school.”

When at the school, dads will have the chance to engage in a number of different activities. The day could start welcoming students in the morning, then helping in the classroom with teacher guidance, hanging out with their son or daughter, monitoring the lunchtime process or assisting loading buses at the end of the day.

Matt Kusche, head of the leadership team, wants to “build a passionate volunteer base — that doesn’t stop at the school.” This is at the heart of the WatchDOGS mission because including fathers, grandfathers, step-fathers, uncles or other positive male role models helps weave a holistic thread between communities, families and schools.

Many times though, dads “want to get involved, but don’t know how to do that,” said Paul Hoover, another leadership team member. WatchDOGS provide a vehicle for this to happen.

Since this is a national program with a strong coast-to-coast presence, support materials are available for existing teams and starting the WatchDOGS in any school.

Kusche brings previous experience in setting up a program too, and is more than willing to help lay the groundwork in other area KP schools for WatchDOGS.

For information, contact Kusche at minterwatchdogs@nullhotmail.com. Also, visit fathers.com for information or contact Minter Creek Elementary to volunteer.

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