Class pets teach life lessons - Catholic Courier

Class pets teach life lessons

Rocco, Fluffy, Omelette, Ruby and Eagle Eyes may not have degrees in teaching, but they certainly did their part to educate one diocesan Catholic school’s students about the cycle of life.

In addition to giving the baby chickens many creative names, students at Mother of Sorrows School in Greece used flashlights to observe chicks as they grew inside eggs in March 2009. The students also followed the development of the hatched chicks and even got to hold a few of them — when the chicks didn’t run the other way, that is.

"Their little feet would tickle your hand," remarked 8-year-old Maria Pezzola.

"One fell asleep on my hand," said Olivia Kaplun, 7.

Like many Catholic schools throughout the diocese, Mother of Sorrows welcomed animals into its classrooms in 2008-09 so students could learn more about life.

Second-grade teacher Patricia Bronowicki said the animals have helped her students to appreciate the beauty of the world and the gifts that God has given everyone.

"That’s learning," Bronowicki said. "That’s better than all the ABCs and 123s."

Chicks weren’t the only animals in the Mother of Sorrows classrooms last school year. In October 2008, the students also studied spiders living in a vivarium — an enclosed habitat designed to allow animals to be studied for research. They put into the vivarium sticks, leaves, dirt and a small, wet sponge that allowed the spiders to drink. Inside the habitat, they saw some of the bigger spiders winning battles in the food chain, and they also observed an egg sac.

They also raised caterpillars into butterflies in May 2009, and that culminated in a butterfly release.

Meanwhile, in Elmira kindergarten and first-grade students at Holy Family Primary School also raised butterflies from caterpillar larvae, and they additionally created a habitat for the insects.

From seed they raised butterfly-friendly plants for a permanent garden at the school and planted it in June. A few days later, they released the fully grown butterflies into the garden.

Holy Family Primary Principal Bernadette McClelland said although kindergarten and first-grade students were relatively young to be planting the garden, she hopes that the students will continue to maintain the garden throughout their time at the school.

"I really wanted our youngest students to take ownership for the garden and follow it through the years," McClelland said.

Responsibility also was part of the lesson when students at St. Louis School in Pittsford raised mealworm beetles during the 2008-09 school year, said Susan Kiseleski, a third-grade teacher at the school.

Students were responsible for giving the mealworms food and water, and they made a small obstacle course for the adult beetles to climb over to help them get exercise. Kiseleski said the experience taught her students how to take care of animals, and taught them about the needs of living things: food, water and shelter. Students also had to take the mealworms home on weekends and during vacations to ensure that their needs were met.

However, a national mealworm shortage in 2008 extended the annual mealworm project, Kiseleski said. Instead of receiving their annual shipment of mealworms in early September, the school didn’t get them until late November, which meant the adult beetles had to be kept throughout the winter and into the spring.

"I’m very sorry to see them go," Kiseleski said of the beetles. "You do get attached to them. I didn’t plan to have them as pets, but we had them so long, they became pets."

 

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