Monday, July 6, 2015

An Action Packed SPRING/ Moving into a New School Year!

Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge

On 4/30/15, Project R.E.A.C.H. students embarked on a trip to visit Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Medford, NJ. This lovely sanctuary is tucked onto 171 acres on the edge of the New Jersey Pinelands and touts a Nature Center, an outdoor housing area for resident wildlife (who could not be released back into the wild due to permanent disability), and a rehabilitation hospital. The refuge relies upon donations to help them work to achieve their mission.

When we arrived at the Refuge, we were greeted by Ms. Erin Kiefer who is the wonderful educational director for the refuge. Ms. Erin took us on a tour of the outdoor housing area, where students learned about the different residents, their stories, fun facts about their species, and how they came to be at the refuge. Ms. Erin answered all of our questions about the amazing animals in their care and explained how important it is to not keep wild or exotic animals as pets. She knew about our work to promote adoption and encouraged the students to tell their families and friends that there are plenty of wonderful domesticated animals waiting for a home in shelters waiting for homes and that it was important to let wild animals (no matter how adorable) stay in the wild.  

We also took a trek through trails at the refuge, with Ms. Erin providing us with some survival tips, letting us chomp on some teaberry (minty fresh), inspect moss, spy on some camouflaged critters, and enjoy nature. After our hike, we broke for lunch. We made sure to throw away our trash and to recycle properly, with Mrs. Sears bagging up the refuse to take with us to return to school.

After lunch, we went inside the refuge to have up close and personal encounters with wild animals who live at the refuge. We were really excited and asked many questions. We even were able to carefully pet a turtle and a pine snake! At the end of the day, we certainly were sad to leave, but we had an awesome time learning about the Refuge and how we can help wild animals in need. With our return to school, we had a debrief and reflected on our experiences.

Innovations in Special Education Award

On Monday, May 11, 2015, Mrs. Sears traveled to Princeton to accept an Award from the New Jersey School Boards Association regarding her development and implementation of Project R.E.A.C.H. Mrs. Sears was accompanied by her loving parents, Mrs. Dale, SCSSSD Board President Dave Moffett,  District Superintendent Jack Swain, and Daretown School Principal, Dr. D'Amato.

Mrs. Sears arrived early to set up a display area where materials and information and artifacts of student work and crafts could be shared. Mrs. Sears spent much of the morning talking to people about what we do with Project R.E.A.C.H., sharing information, and answering people's questions. Our work was very well received and people were very interested and extremely inspired by what we do. While at the pre-ceremony activities, generous donors helped us to accumulate over $18 for our "Change for Critters Challenge" which seeks to raise $100 by June 2016 to sponsor an adoptable dog's donation fee. That's a great start!

After we were ushered in for lunch, Mrs. Sears was called up to accept the Innovations in Special Education Award in front of a ballroom full of guests. What an amazing day. It's also important to note that Mrs. Sears also received commendation for her efforts from the Salem County Special Services School District, which was very nice.

SCHS Visit 
Our trip to visit our friends at Salem County Humane Society was incredible! We had several stations to attend to including canvas painting, reading to and coloring with kitties, developing frames and DIY cat toys, and creating Public Service Announcements. In spite of the rain, we had a wonderful time. However, we were very thankful Mrs. Sears brought a pop-up tent! Phew! It was great to hang out with the adoptable animals and be able to give back. Our time at the humane society is never long enough! If you have time, please consider spending some time volunteering at your local humane society/ rescue/ shelter because the adoptable pets surely enjoy it.

It's also important to remember that shelters like SCHS always need donations to help them provide care for the animals staying there. Be generous and give from your heart, and remember that there is no donation too small to help. It all adds up.

As Mrs. Sears has posted, we have worked closely with 5414 Productions, the non-profit film company that developed the documentary Dog By Dog. Mrs. Sears had the honor of attending the Philadelphia Premiere of the film on May 14th. The film is incredible and is a must-see. If you haven't heard about this documentary, please check out its website at and its Facebook page at . Stay tuned for future collaborations...big things are in store!!

Project R.E.A.C.H.'s 2nd Anniversary
It's hard to believe it, but Project R.E.A.C.H. turned 2 on June 20, 2015. It has been an amazing two years and it's going to continue to be important as we continue to give back to our community. We are excited for what the future holds and look forward to your continued support.

Where We are Now!

    Charity Cookbook

As an update, our charity cookbook is coming along well, but it is going to take Mrs. Sears some time to fully assemble so it is a fundraiser that will make us proud. In the mean time, if you have any recipes that you haven't had the chance to share with us, please feel free to e-mail us at or message us on our Facebook page at The fundraiser will hopefully be able to begin at some time in the fall/ winter of the 2015-2016 school year. Sorry for the delay!

                                             Video Development/ Change for Critters Challenge
Prior to the end of the school year, several students developed videos to promote humane messaging as well as our endeavor to collect $100 by June 2016 in order to sponsor an adoptable dog's adoption fee at Salem County Humane Society. Mrs. Sears will be posting some of these videos throughout the summer, so please share to help the message reach far and wide. :)

                                                                 Moving Forward
School may be out, but the work continues for Mrs. Sears as she continues planning for the new school year. What can we do? Where can we go? How do you R.E.A.C.H.? Share your ideas by messaging or e-mailing us! Don't forget to Tweet at us @ProjectREACH13 and Vines will be coming in the new school year.

As always, thank you for your support as we show the world how we share our hearts.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Happy Spring! Big Announcements! :)

Hello and Happy Spring, R.E.A.C.H.ers!
It has been very hectic at Daretown campus. Our trip to Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge had to be postponed due to weather. Hopefully our rain date scheduled for next week will be much more cooperative. With that being said, look forward to hearing a recap about our experiences at the sanctuary.

Our work on the Project R.E.A.C.H. Charity Cookbook is coming along smoothly, but of course, we would still LOVE to have you share a recipe. If you are interested in participating, all you have to do is message us your recipe, its name, and how you would like your name presented in the cookbook. It’s really that simple. We will take care of the rest. We are hoping for a May launch, so get those recipes in soon! J Thanks to everyone who has already contributed. If you’d like to share some more, please feel free.

I also wanted to share two pieces of very happy news. First of all, I have, as of March 28, 2015, received my Certified Humane Education Specialist credential from The Humane Society of the United States. My name is now a part of the Humane Society Academy’s registry, and I am able to work in many different capacities to promote humane education outside of my classroom. I would highly encourage anyone interested in expanding their horizons, who loves animals and people and the world around them, to take a look at what this awesome program has to offer. You will meet many fabulous educators, all of whom are making a great difference in the lives of the youth and animals in their community. As a teacher, I am of the belief that it is important to be a lifelong learner, and it is always essential to grow as a person to be better than before.

Additionally, at the prompting of my school’s principal, in early April, I applied to the New Jersey School Boards Association and the Associationof Schools and Agencies for the Handicapped’s Innovations in Special Education Award for Project R.E.A.C.H. This prestigious awards program “recognizes exemplary programs for special education students.” It was with great happiness that I received an envelope in my school mailbox today (we had an in-service last Friday). I was pretty nervous to open it up, because I wasn’t sure what the letter might say. I am elated to report that my application for Project R.E.A.C.H. was one of the ten applications out of 51 total applications that has been selected for recognition at an awards ceremony during the Special Education Week of 2015. At this ceremony, I will be able to display materials and information about our initiative to share with the other honored programs. Among the invited guests are the Governor, NJ state legislators, the Commissioner of Education, and other state officials.

I can’t even begin to express how humbled and proud I am that my students’ work in our community is being recognized by these fabulous organizations. It just goes to show you that if you start small, and think BIG, you will R.E.A.C.H.  It brings tears to my eyes to know that others see the good my students are doing and I’m kind of bummed out because I really want all of my kids to be able to be there to experience it because this award is, I feel, an important testament to their efforts! 

Unfortunately, because the ceremony is taking place in Princeton, which is pretty far away from our campus, I won’t be able to take any students due to bussing. However, I’m definitely going to find some way to make sure that they feel like they are there. We’ll see what we can come up with when we put our heads together. :)

I do want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for supporting my students and myself. Your love, kind words, and support mean so much. Also, I would like to stress that if you believe in something, you should push for it whole-heartedly, because every good change that has come in this world came from people just like my students, just like you, and just like me. All it takes is one voice to start a discussion, one discussion to open a dialogue, and open dialogue to move people to action—and all of our actions combined can make a difference in our lives, in the lives of others, in the lives of our fellow nonhuman beings, in our environment, and in the world at large. It is easy to stand by and say things are someone else’s problems, and to complain about things, instead of searching for a solution. I want my students, and YOU, to feel empowered, and to know that we all can make a difference. Please, show the world how you share your heart!!<3

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for continuing on this journey with us as we try to make our little corner of the world a more humane place for us all to live.


Mrs. Sears

Monday, January 12, 2015

November and December to Remember and Moving into 2015

Please forgive us for our lateness with this blog. It has been quite a busy past few months. Over the past few months since we were able to blog, Project R.E.A.C.H. students have been hard at work on various projects, including our Charity Cookbook. Students reached out to their family members and other loved ones to find a favorite family recipe to contribute to our cookbook (which will be distributed as a PDF file. The purpose of this cookbook is to use it as a fundraiser to benefit Salem County Humane Society. We are still hard at work with encouraging our supporters to share recipes that can be included in the cookbook. If you have a favorite breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack, or cat/dog treat, we would love to hear from you. You can either comment here or head over to our Facebook page (hyper-linked above) to share.

In the mean time, we had a great time participating in our 2nd Annual "Bow Wow and Meow Holiday Giving Drive." Donations were very generous and were much appreciated by the volunteers and adoptable animals at Salem County Humane Society.

We also started work on the 12 Days of Kittymas, but unfortunately due to technology related problems at school (mostly connectivity issues) we were unable to fully complete our 12 Days of Kittymas. As a a result, we will be shaking something up this month to help the kitties that we were unable to publish because of our technical difficulties.

Moving into 2015, my students have a lot to look forward to with their Project R.E.A.C.H. efforts. They have been asked to design a banner for Salem County Humane Society's upcoming Fur Ball! They will also be working on their Charity Cookbook, as well as some other super surprises! :) 

I wanted to share with you the article "Within Reach" from the publication "All Animals" which featured Project R.E.A.C.H. and the distinct honor in conjunction with being named the National Kind Teacher of the Year for 2014. It is an honor and a privilege to do what I do, so reading things like this about myself are pretty unreal. However, I share this with you because I think it is important for other educators and people who work with young people to realize that humane education certainly has a (much-needed) place in the classroom and can become a part of any curriculum, as long as you are willing to try. ["All Animals" is an excellent magazine and I would highly recommend you check it out.]

I also wanted to take this time to thank each and every one of you R.E.A.C.H.ers for continually supporting my students and their humane efforts. We appreciate all of your support, generosity, and willingness to "like," "share," and "comment" on our blog and our Facebook page. It is certainly humbling to have your support and to know that so many people care about our young people and animals in our communities. 

Jessica Sears