Monday, March 26, 2012

Live Facebook Chat

Small Pet Care Live Facebook Chat (3.27.12 at 3 p.m. Mountain/5 p.m. Central)

On March 27, PetSmart will host a Live Facebook chat, featuring PetSmart Expert, Dr. Kemba Marshall, to engage pet parents in discussions about small pet care. This live, open discussion will invite PetSmart Facebook fans to ask questions, receive tips and information about small pets and provide additional resources to find more information.

Click {here} to go to the Facebook page.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Connecting Science through Read Alouds

Somehow I find the time to connect science into every part of my day....I guess it's my passion and it overflows into all areas!  Have you noticed, by the way, that owls are extremely hot this year????

Right now we are reading Owl in the Shower  by Jean Craighead George.  It is an excellent story about the fate of an owl after a logging company has clear cut the land in the Northwest.  It is told covering the points of view of the owl (sort of), the logger (Leon) and the tree huggers (the teacher! ha ha). My students and I are familiar with owls living in Virginia, but not with the controversy surrounding the spotted owl out west.  The book is full of great vocabulary, interesting points of view, funny owl stories and lots of true facts. We have loved every minute of it!

As I have been reading it, I started a vocabulary chart to post in the room.  I ask the kids to remember three interesting words from the day's read aloud that we may need to discuss and add to our wall.  We have also added picture of the barred owl (Bardy in the story) as well as the spotted owl.  This is a great visual for discussion as well!

Recently, I decided to have the students do a Quick write to share what they had learned about owls from the book. We were fortunate to have the ibooks visiting in our classroom for the day and so they pleaded with me to let them type the quick writes out. No argument here!

To read some of the samples from my students, head over to
my blog Science Gal .


Monday, March 19, 2012

In the Hood

Each year, my husband's science students read My Side of the Mountain. The main character in the book is Sam Gribley, a boy in his early teens.  For a year, Sam lives in the woods of the Catskill Mountains. One day Sam spies a peregrine falcon pursuing  its prey. Sam determines he wants a falcon as a hunting bird; so, he goes to the nearby town of Delhi to learn about falconry (hunting small game by using a trained bird of prey) by searching books at the local library.  For several days, he camps near a cliff hoping to find the location of a peregrine falcon nest. While the mother bird attacks him, Sam steals a female chick from the nest.  He names the bird Frightful, and it becomes one of Sam's closest companions. 

A Peregrine Falcon
If you are acquainted with falconry, you know that peregrine falcons will wear a hood to keep them calm and to make certain they are alert for the falconer. The falcons are also trained to go into hunting mode once the hood is removed.  A good falcon hood does not bother the falcon. If it fits well, it does not damage the bird’s feathers or hamper its breathing. Under no circumstances does the hood come in contact with the falcon’s eyes.  Out of all the falconer's aids, the hood is the most important piece of equipment. In the book, Sam makes jesses (leg straps), leashes and a hood out of deer skin for Frightful.  My husband figured if Sam could construct a falcon hood, then maybe his students could as well.

Using the Internet, (Hood Patterns) my husband found several hood patterns.  (Most hoods are custom made by hand and can cost $150 or more!)  We purchased faux leather from the fabric store as well as special needles and thread.  The students practiced sewing on scraps of the material before cutting out their own patterns and sewing them together.  Below is a summary of the process in pictures.

What makes every hood unique is that each falconer decorates the hood in an extraordinary way. They may use elaborate feathers, pieces of colored leather, ornaments, etc.  Sometimes, they are even hand painted, dyed, or uniquely tooled.  Here is what a few of the handmade hoods looked like after the  students decorated and embellished them.
Overall, this was a successful book assignment which was not only creative and imaginative, but it gave the artistic students a chance to shine.  As a result, you might want to try this project in your classroom as well.  So I wish you good luck, good reading, and good hood making.

Here are two supplementary resources for My Side of the Mountain.
  1. Two Word Searches - The first puzzle is more challenging.  It lists clues instead of the hidden words so the student must determine what the word is before finding it on the grid.  Also, in this puzzle, is a hidden message.  When the 14 words are found, the hidden message appears from left to right.  The second puzzle is a standard word search where a list of 17 words must be located in the grid.  After the words are uncovered, a hidden message can be read from left to right. 
  2. A Crossword Puzzle - Highlights 17 different birds which appear in the book My Side of the Mountain.  The 17 clues are based on the bird’s unique characteristics, color, and song.  Page numbers where the answers may be found in the book are added to most of the clues so that the book can be used as a reference. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What Pets Teach Us

This blog is dedicated to Molly, my classroom pet, who past away in August.   She was 9 1/2 and lived an extremely long and happy life for a guinea pig.  Guinea pigs live to be between 5 and 8 years old.  So, I would say she would be about 105 if she were a person!  Next week, would have been her 10th birthday.   This is a repost with some tweaks of one that I posted on my blog in August.  I have gotten many questions through this blog on how I handle a classroom pet's death and what type of cage I use.  This post answers those questions and more.  It also highlights what pets teach us.

I had known Molly's death was coming and had been preparing myself and the students.  In June, I noticed that she was not handling the heat well and decided she would be better at home in my airconditioned house.  I also thought it better, they not see her dead.  If it had happened I would have handled it with honesty, but if I was able to prevent the children from seeing Molly like that I thought it best I do so.  So, we had a retirement party in my classroom.  We wrote her advice on her retirement.  I scanned a few of the super cute ones and placed them below.
(She will relax in a jacuzzi with water and sit by a water jet.)

Molly enjoyed the simple things in life up until the very end. She would squeak for food whenever I walked past her cage.  Then she would purr after I would give her some of her favorite summer treats: watermelon, strawberries, grape tomatoes, and corn.  I am deeply saddened by her loss, but find comfort in the fact that she brought me and over 200 students who came through my classroom such joy.  There is a quote by Dr. Seuss that I love: "Don't cry because it is over, smile because it happened."  I want to remember and celebrate all of the special things about her life.

Molly was left in a box in front of Petco early one March morning.  A class mother knew that I was looking to rescue a pet for the classroom and told me about her.  I teach Humane Education in my classroom and thought this would be a great way to teach my students about compassion for animals.  Through the years, Molly not only taught them about compassion, but about so many other important life lessons.  Here are some of the lessons she taught my students and even me:
  • Fresh Fruit and Veggies are the Best - She encouraged healthy eating, as the the students were only allowed to share their snack with her if they had fruit or vegetables.  
  • Responsibility -She taught the students responsibility, as each month it was one student's job to be pet helper.  When she was younger, she went home with students for the weekend.  For some students, this was a stepping stone to getting their own pets.  On Mondays, we would share her journal entry and photos.  This was also a great way to enhance the "Home-School Connection."  
  • It's OK to Laugh in School - Oh she made us laugh!  One time, it was dead silent in the room and she just burst out squealing at the top of her lungs.  The students asked if she was having babies; turns out she just really wanted some lettuce.  Another time, I replaced her well chewed wooden house with a new one.  She tried to fit through the window like she always did, but this window had not been widened by her chewing.  She got stuck in the window like Winnie the Pooh, with her behind hanging out.  It was hysterical!  
  • Write About What You Know -Molly was a source of inspiration for Writer's Workshop and was a always on my students' "Things Inside My Heart" lists.  
  • Always Dress Your Best - She was the leader of the Halloween parade every year.  She tolerated anything I put on her!  
  • Animal Safety - I showed the students appropriate behavior for interacting with domesticated animals, such as the proper way to approach an animal and pet an animal.
  • Be On Your Best Behavior - When my students got a bit to noisy, I would tell them that Molly was trying to nap and that they were disturbing her.  She also became a positive behavior reinforcement for the ABA students in my building.  The students would earn lettuce from the cafeteria for good behavior.  Then they would get to feed Molly the lettuce.  
  • Say Thank You - Molly always offered a friendly purr or "chud chud" sound every time someone gave her food.
  • Greet Your Friends In the Morning - She said "hello" to me every morning by running to her her cage and squeaking.  
  • Y can Sound Like a Vowel - Whenever there was a y that sounded like long e at the end of the word, I would remind the students of Molly's name.  This really helped them remember that y could sound like long e!
Thanks for reading this post and helping me celebrate her wonderful life.

Click {here} to view photos of Molly.

Click {here} to read my previous posts about Molly and Humane Education.

If you are thinking of getting a classroom pet,  my advice is that you must think of the classroom pet as your own.  Please, click {here} and download my Critters in the Classroom packet.  As always, make pet adoption your fist option, go to Petfinder to find local rescue groups.

My favorite site about Guinea Pigs is Cavy Spirit.  This is were I got the plans to make her extra large guinea pig cage.