Meet one of our first grade pets, Lizzie! This year I went from 0 pets to many, many! (I’ve lost count!).
It all began with Lizzie. I had talked to another teacher about classroom pets and that I was considering getting one. Her son had this leopard gecko that was needing attention. I was totally up for it, but was a bit nervous about some of the details! Feeding? I watched YouTube videos of some of these things eating pinkies (baby mice that are only a day or two old). Yuck! That was definitely not something I wanted to watch. And did you know that if their tail is pulled and they are frightened they will just “drop” their tail? I saw videos of what they look like sans tail. Not a pretty sight! And my number one fear? That I would go to pick her up and get scared and drop her or even throw her. This was not a type of pet I was used to. I found out she just eats crickets. Cricket care is a whole ‘nother topic! I also sometimes give her meal worms and just discovered she loves wax worms. I practiced holding her after school. I wanted to be very comfortable with her before I took her out to let the kids touch her. They can “pet” her or gently hold her while we are sitting in a circle. We also use hand sanitizer afterwards.
I guess our pet journey technically began before that with our obsession with praying mantis’. The kids found a few at home or recess and we set up an aquarium. They never lasted long. I think they were at the end of the season. Back to the count…
Next, we added a fish. One of the parents has a Koi pond and a large goldfish was sucked into the filter and a bit injured. He needed to be separated and so she asked if I wanted him for the class. Sure! 🙂 We kept it in a large food container for a few days and then the parent went out and bought a nice aquarium for it! The kids were absolutely loving our pets by this time. One of the sweet boys asked if he could bring in his Betta and add it to the tank. I looked it up and it seemed like they might do OK together. I told him we could try, but if the big goldfish was picking on the betta we’d have to take it out. They did fine together. Another student added a 2nd house decoration which provided a place for the smaller fish to hide. I then decided to add an aquatic frog — just because they’re cute. It is only a 5 gallon tank, so we couldn’t add any more to it. (the rule is 1 inch of fish per gallon – we were a bit over!)
When I saw a 10 gallon tank at Petco for 1/2 off, I couldn’t resist. I realized that buying the fish would be a big expense. I decided to turn it into a field trip! 🙂 We were able to schedule a fun field trip to Petco and afterwards buy some fish. I had a list of fish that would work well together (mostly non-agressive schooling fish). Each student brought $5 to the field trip. Each team of two could choose 1 fish and then they were assigned 1 other thing (a few groups had gravel, a few had decorations and a few had plants). It was so much fun! They couldn’t stop “oooohing” over the beautiful aquarium when it was all setup. The tanks are all by the door and they love to look at them when we line up. I have a few “fake” molded plastic turtles that I had out for our pond unit. They loved to set up the turtles so they were “watching” the aquarium. Those turtles were moved a lot! Many of the fish didn’t last long (I think it was because of adding a bunch of new fish to a new aquarium) so I replaced a few. It still was really nice and the kids quickly adjusted to missing fish.
The last pets of the year were chicks. I decided to hatch eggs this year. I had a parent who was a vet tech. I probably wouldn’t have tried so many things otherwise. She brought it the eggs and we used the small incubator that the school has. It automatically turns the eggs. We started with 12 eggs. It was a learning experience for me since I didn’t realize how VERY important it is to always have water (moisture) and we had some issues with the heat. During the last few days before the hatch, the cord came unplugged and they were without heat for several hours! I was just sure we wouldn’t have any hatch. In spite of all this, we had 5 chicks hatch. One ended up having a problem with his leg and didn’t make it. The rest were all healthy! We did one more hatch and had about 7 out of 12 hatch. The kids used the uber cute journals from Christie at First Grade Fever. I bought the unit on TPT. It was such a great experience! The kids never saw any hatching — those eggs were sneaky! One was ready to hatch right before school so I brought the kids in a bit early and the chick hatched in the few minutes that I was out of the room! I did video record one of the hatches and we watched it on the projector.
I also took pictures of each kiddo holding a chick and made them into a cute photo gift for Father’s Day.
Whew! That’s a lot of pet posting! So, what to do with animals during the summer? I was so lucky to have a pet parent this year! The vet tech agreed to take home anything that I needed help with. She took all the critters home for the beginning of summer so I could go on vacation. I took Lizzie back a few weeks ago (to give her a break!) and it hasn’t been entirely smooth. My 2 crazy cats go bananas trying to get to the crickets. And they are very fascinated by Lizzie. I keep a close eye on them. I think I will need to bring her back to the classroom soon. I am able to go into my classroom at any time, so I can feed her there.
I’d love to hear about your classroom pets. Oh, and have you seen Critters in the Classroom? It’s a blog that is just for teachers with classroom pets! It’s fun to read about what works for others.