Muscatine elementary school uses ‘Frankie’ the therapy pig to improve learning

MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) — An elementary school in eastern Iowa is using a therapy pig to help special education students manage emotions and focus on learning.

"She's a super cute baby," said Franklin Kindergartner Alyse, 5.

The Muscatine Journal reports that Frankie the pig serves as a calming mechanism. Students showing signs of emotional distress are asked to sit and read to the therapy pig for 15 minutes. The practice has proven to help students recover and return to learning more quickly.

Franklin Kindergarten teacher Catie Arceo says the students were all excited to see little Frankie for the first time.

"Seeing Frankie with the Kindergarten students for the first time was great," Mrs. Arceo said. "They were all really excited about her and had a lot of questions about why in the world a pig was at school. Some students even said they had never seen a pig in real life."

Students are also in charge of feeding and caring for Frankie. It has created a sense of ownership and responsibility in the classroom.

Mrs. Arceo says Frankie will be at the school every day and go home with one of the teacher's at night.

"She spends her day in a special education classroom and is always available for students who may need a mental break from their classrooms," Mrs. Arceo said. "If students get frustrated or are having a bad day, they can go down and hold the pig, read to her or simply talk to her."

Mrs. Arceo says the school is hopeful Frankie will remain a positive for many students and provide a "different type of comfort" when needed.