Monday, January 30, 2012

Writing about Class Pets...

Squirtle the Turtle is longing for some stories....

Last week I opened up to the students that for writing workshop I would like them to write about Squirtle. It could be any form they chose:
Narrative (what they have seen)
Adventure (make believe)
Or any other topic so long as I approved it first. The kids took this idea and ran with it...

Some topics include:
  • Katie wrote a diary entry from Squirtle's point of view in which he decided to break out of his tank!
  • Lilly wrote about Squirtle's adventures at night...did you know he watches TV? He lovesToy Story.
  • Jordan wrote a tongue twister - Squirtle squats by the squirt shore. Turtle twisted toward the tortoise shore.
  • Amber and Tim wrote poems (as did my paraprofessional Tana)
  • Broderick wrote all about how the turtle pees on the floor (this really bother him!)
  • Darlene wrote about how we got him and how old he is...
  • Shane and Robert wrote what they have noticed about him - he came from Petsmart, he is shy, etc...
  • Kayla wrote about him secretly being Oprah!
  • Dean wrote a story about him being a Pharoah (he is currently reading the Red Pyramid series)
All of the topics were wonderful and fun to read...I'll leave you with a few to whet your appetite. Apoem by Tamia...

And a Cartoon by Ben...

Hope you enjoyed reading about our adventures...Come visit me on my blog some time..

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Have you heard????

Pets in the Classroom!

Hello...I am a new contributor to Critters in the Classroom.  My blog is called ScienceGal and you can find me at  I hope you will visit soon!!!

Have you heard of the wonderful program called Pets in the Classroom? At my science lead teacher meeting, a colleague told us about this wonderful program. It's super easy and allowed me to get an amazing pet and pet habitat for my classroom.

How does it work? Technically it is a grant - you fill out the online form online and within two weeks you will get notification in the mail.

There are four (4) grant types, including: 1- Rebate Grants in the amounts of $100 (for small animal or birds) or $150 (for reptiles or fish) for purchases at any pet store; 2- the Sustaining Grant in the amount of $50 to maintain an existing classroom pet; 3- Petco Grant, which provides coupons for the live animal, pet habitat and supplies purchased at Petco; and 4- a Petsmart Grant, which provides coupons for the live animal, pet habitat and supplies purchased at Petsmart.

I was lucky enough to be adopted by a parent in my class this year. Instead of going through Adopt-a-Classroom which has so many stipulations, she donated the $500 in cash for me to use as I wish. I asked the students what they wanted...and overwhelmingly they wanted a class pet. I had heard about this grant and knew that it would pay for a big chunk of the materials and I could use her money to pay the rest.

Our school system has told us no animals with fur are allowed so my choices were limited. These are the options you have to choose from:

At Petco: Hamster, Guinea Pig, Hermit Crabs, Fish, Bearded Dragon and Leopard Gecko.

At Petsmart: Hamster, Guinea Pig, Aquatic Turtle, Fish, Bearded Dragon, Snake, Fancy Rat and Leopard Gecko.

My students voted and picked to get a turtle. When we were got the grant, we were given coupons - $90 off a Zilla Deluxe habitat (which had pretty much everything I needed) as well as $90 for supplies that the turtle would need: water conditioner, rocks, fish, turtle food, wax for his shell, a bridge for him to climb from the water to the rocks and a night light.

Let me just say...the turtle has the Taj Mahal of cages as my friend and parent in my class Anne said last night...I would NEVER have been able to purchase such a nice habitat on my own. PetSmart had an associate named Janelle who walked me through the whole process. She showed me the tank they had and how it was set up, what he liked to eat and how to clean the tank, when to change the light bulbs (he has a day light and a night light) and told me all about his personallity. He loves to dig in the rocks!!!

When I rang up at the cash register, the total cost was $275. The grant paid for $180 and my adoption money paid for about $88. I tell you this because I don't want you to be shocked that you may have to pay something extra. There are stipulations - for example I had to buy the expensive tank ($174 with $90 off). Some of my colleagues have asked for school funds to pay the balance and not all are as much as the turtle was.

Our turtle, named Squirtle by the students, is a male African Sideneck turtle who is six months old. He will live for 15 -25 years (hopefully). I brought him home and set up the tank to get used to it myself over the weekend. Monday, he will meet the classmates. Stay tuned!

The money is provided by the Pet Care Trust which is based in Maryland.

For more information go to

See you soon...Leslie at ScienceGal

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Meet Striker and Mini-Me

Hi there. It's Jenn from Finally in First. I am so excited to be contributing to this cute, new blog that Erica thought up. I'd like to introduce you to my corn snakes Striker and Mini-Me. 
I don't love the names but I taught 4th graders and let them vote when I got the snakes as babies.

STRIKER-We had to condition them to being held so the students held them every recess every day. This little guy did sometimes give you a nip, hence his name.

MINI-ME-When they were young, it was hard to tell them apart except that this guy was smaller. Combine that fact with the popularity of the Austin Powers movies (this was 4 years ago) and 4th grade humor and there we have it.

Why don't I just change the names? Easier said than done. I am lucky enough to work in a school that hosts about 60 animals. Most classrooms and the science lab have pets. To raise money to take care of all the food, cages, etc we ask families if they would like to "adopt" an animal for the year. By donating, the student gets a certificate, a picture holding that animal and dedicated visiting time twice a year.  It takes quite a bit of time to organize all of that so we don't change the names every year!

Yep! In fact, when you walk around our campus, it is common to see students with large snakes around their neck or bearded dragons clinging to their shirt!

NO! Most of the kids are dying for their turn to hold the snakes. The moms are another story. Many of the moms tell me they try to hide their true feelings because they think it is great that their girls have no fear.

YES! More than once! If I could change Striker's name it would be to Houdini! With the kids taking them out twice a day, there have been times the cage wasn't secured. Just shutting the top isn't enough. If the pin isn't in they can open it enough to squeeze out. The third time they got out I only looked for a few minutes and then we just went on with our day {although I did make sure the door stayed closed.} The parents came in HYSTERICAL when they heard and I told them not to worry, the missing snake would show up. They were floored that I was so calm. I assured them that I had learned from experience that they liked to hide initially but would find a spot to curl up after we had gone. Sure enough, the next morning a student found the escape artist in their book box!

See what fun you are missing?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Regurgitating Owls!

I love this blog because it introduces us to cute, cuddly critters, but being the wife of a science teacher, cuddly sometimes isn't what I get.  My husband loves birds.  He took ornithology in college and can identify birds by just their call.  To go for a walk with him is like having a professional bird watcher along. Every year, his 8th graders, who take Consumer Science, study birds, do power points about birds, listen to bird calls over and over, and sometimes they even build bird houses.  They also talk about habitat and what the bird eats.

Dissecting an Owl Pellet
To make this part of the course more realistic, the students dissect owl pellets.  Now if you have never had the privilege of doing this, you have missed out on a "Dirty Job" (It really isn't too dirty even though it is puke).  Owl pellets are what an owl regurgitates after eating another animal such as a mouse.  The owl is able to digest all of the meat, muscle, etc., but since s/he cannot digest the bones, these are regurgitated.  The pellet looks like a fuzzy oval ball.  When the owl pellet is dissected, all the bones can be removed and then put together to see what animal the owl actually ate.  It's pretty cool, according to his students.

An Owl Pellet
 To avoid having the students exposed to bacteria, my husband purchases these for his class, but you can actually find them in the woods, in barns, and other habitats of owls.  So why not go scouting for owl pellets this week?  *But watch out for scat (You may have to look that word up in the dictionary.) as it can disguise itself as owl pellets!

*Avoid dissecting owl pellets found in the wild as they may carry unwanted bacteria and diseases. Be sure to wear gloves when picking them up to examine.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Meet Mr. Weasley!

Hi bloggy friends!  I am Jena from 1st Grade with Miss Snowden, and I am so excited to be a part of Erica's new blog.  I am a big time animal lover.  You can read about my other pets{here}.  However, this post is to introduce our classroom pet, Mr. Weasley. 
In the past, I have had hamsters and fish in my classroom.  Mr. Weasley, a guinea pig, is by far my favorite.  He has a very sweet disposition and loves getting carrots during our afternoon snack. 

Each year when I introduce our class pet, I tell the students what I have named him or her.   I explained to the students that I chose the name Mr. Weasley, because he reminded me of a character from one of my favorite book series.  Our guinea pig has a reddish colored fur just like the red headed Weasley family from the Harry Potter books.  Then I told the students that since he is a class pet, we can rename him if they do not like the name I have chosen.  We brainstormed a list of names, and the students had to write why they believed their chosen name was the best.  This year Mr. Weasley was the winning name, but in years past this activity has spawned some creative names.  We have had Ramona the Hamster (after Ramona Quimby), Micheal Jackson the Beta Fish, and Wild Sucker the Plecostomus (sucker fish).  

You can get your free copy of the "Naming Our Class Pet Writing Prompts" by clicking the image below. 
I encourage you to add the love of an animal to your classroom!