Classroom pets now part of the daily lesson plans at Gardendale Elementary

    Oreo loves playing in Mrs. Chaffin's kindergarten class. ( | Wendell Edwards)

    You will find a pet in almost every classroom at Gardendale Elementary School.


    "We love our students and we love our classroom pets, too," said principal Dr. Chuck Yeager.

    Just read this list:

    • There are chickens in Mrs. King’s enrichment class.
    • A Gecko named Saavy lives in Mrs. Fitzgerald’s fifth grade room.
    • Even Tinkerbell, the turtle, is just outside Mrs. Durham’s first grade classroom in the aquarium. Tinkerbell comes from a line of turtles that started the pet-friendly environment at the school.

    "My theme for the year is being bold -- just trying something different," said Dr. Yeager. "We have some teachers who have adopted that as well by having some class pets."

    In Mrs. Loggins' third grade class, the crayfish just had babies. Loggins said she made it a science unit and students learned about their habitat and environment.

    Mrs. Hughes has a rabbit, Thumper, named just like the one in the classic movie "Bambi." Thumper sometimes helps with classwork. Hughes says he really helps the students stay focused.

    "We use to have a really large continent rug, and Thumper would hop to the different continents," she said. "And the students would tell us which continent he was hopping or laying on."

    The newest additions are two guinea pigs -- Oreo and Reecy -- in Mrs. Chaffin's kindergarten class. She got them about two months ago. Chaffin is an animal lover. She has two cats at home. She decided to share the love for animals with her students after visiting a pet store in Gardendale.

    "I saw a brochure about pets in a classroom and there was a grant," she said. "I thought, 'well, why not?' My school already has pets. So, I just applied for it."

    She got the grant and bought Oreo and Reecy.

    "The students love them already," Mrs. Chaffin said. "They are very engaged. Every time they come back into the classroom, the students just love to see what the guinea pigs are doing."

    Dr. Yeager said the pets teach the students responsibility and good behavior and how to make good choices.

    He said not every student has to handle the animals, but most choose to do so. Parents must sign off on a pet before it can be brought into the classroom.

    Yeager said the goal is to simply motivate and give students more to care about -- than just themselves.

    Some students, with parent permission, adopt the pets and take care of them for the weekend. Yeager says that also helps them learn even more responsibility.

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