Monday, April 4, 2016

Classroom Stories Two

 A couple of animal stories this time. When I was a fourth grade teacher in England I kept a pair of gerbils in my class. They were in a large aquarium with a chicken-wire cover on top. The students called them Brownie and Whitey because one was browner and the other was, you've got it,  whiter. Periodically the gerbils would produce offspring which always amazed the students especially when it happened during class time. The students would always get alarmed when the gerbils carried their babies around like the one in this picture. Each time there was a new litter students would sign up to take a pair home, with parental permission of course. I would build a cage out of half an old wooden desk and send it home with a water bottle, two gerbils and a week's worth of food. I always assured the parents that the gerbils were the same sex.

One afternoon I noticed one of the students walking slowly  across the back of the classroom and stopping every few steps and stamping his foot. I asked hi what he was doing and he said that Brownie had escaped from the cage and he was trying to catch him. When I asked how stamping on him could be an effective form of capture he stopped for a moment and replied "I was only trying to stamp on his tail". After that we kept a large net in the classroom for catching escaped gerbils.

The other story was told frequently by one of my doctoral advisers at the University of Illinois where I completed my doctoral program.As the story goes, a class of fifth graders had invited a member of the local raptor organization to bring a bird of prey to class for part of a thematic unit. It was a small hawk as far as I remember and the plan was to let it fly around the classroom a couple of times. After a fifteen minute talk about hawks the handler duly released the hawk which flew  straight to the classroom aquarium in which was coiled an unsuspecting, and very contented, small garden snake; the class pet. Instantly, the hawk snatched up the snake, flew up into the ceiling rafters and proceeded to devour the hapless snake much to the horror of all the students who were swiftly led from the classroom to avoid being splattered by the blood falling from the hawk's unexpected meal.  

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