Sunday, January 13, 2013

Class Pets

Do you have class pets? I know it's an extra responsibility to take on, but students love having class pets and they get so much out of the experience!

My second year of teaching we hatched a Triop. They are pretty fascinating little prehistoric fish. If you are looking for an easy and interesting class pet, these guys fit the bill.

Three years ago there was a promotion for teachers to get a free hamster or gerbil as well as a free cage and start up supplies. I can't say no to free, so our class adopted gerbil Rue.

Rue has been an excellent pet. She has gone home with, I'm guessing, at least 50 families, and she is has surpassed the gerbil life expectancy of 2-3 years. Although she is still very active, her age is showing. I decided it was time to retire her just before the Christmas break, and she is loving her retirement home (my house). I promised my class that we would have a new pet(s) when they returned. 

I debated about what type of pet to get. Rue was easy to care for and the kids loved her. But my heart was telling me to go for something more fun, challenging, and engaging, and that meant rats. Ideally, I would love to get one rat, but it is highly recommended to keep rats in groups of two or more. So, my class has adopted a pair of female rats. Last week the class voted and their names are Pepper and Ginger (just the like the spices the early explorers were searching for in!)! They will be coming home with me on weekends for the next few weeks as we work on hand taming and litter training them. It's been so much more challenging (and stinky!) than a lone gerbil, but....BUT....they are so sweet and friendly! I've already gotten snuggles and kisses from them both. 

Pepper took a nap under my chin.

 Ginger loves crawling in my pocket. 

I'm pretty sure that our new principal is not thrilled about me keeping critters, but that isn't going to stop me. They are important to the students, and they are a big part of my classroom economy system (job, reward, etc.). I'm also thinking of having my students write research papers about pet rats to make their presence even more meaningful. 

It's only been a week with our new ratties. I've been sewing like mad to make liners and hammocks for their cages. I've learned that rats are much stinkier than gerbils, and they eat a lot more! But, we'll figure out how to make it work in our classroom. 

I thought I'd offer some tidbits of advice for those who are interested in getting a class pet...

1. Adoption is a commitment! Adopting a class pet is just like adopting a family pet. You will need to model proper care and do what ever it takes to keep a happy healthy pet. Consider the time and money that you will be investing. Just because the pet itself is inexpensive (rats run about $15 each) doesn't mean they are inexpensive pets. Rat cages run upwards of $60, food will cost about $10 a month, and don't forget all the toys and accessories! 

2. Do your research! I spent hours finding out about different critters and their needs. There are pros and cons to all options. Find out what animal best suits your time, budget, and age group. Understand what you will need to do to give your pet a confortable life. 

3. Start small! It's ok to start with "easier" pets. Hermit crabs, fish, Triops, tadpoles, might be better first time pets and then you can move up from there. Gerbils and hamsters are low maintenance, but they are nocturnal. This is a great guide of which pets are NOT suited for a classroom. 

4. Class pets are not for everyone! It's ok to say no to having a class pet. 

So, who out there has class pets? I'd love to hear more about your critter friends! 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

December 2012

Happy 2013 Friends! December was mighty busy and I was a bad blogger with a total of 0 posts last month! So, I'm going to start the year off right and get caught up! My class was busily learning and I had some excitement of my own this December!

Much of the month was taken up by BizTown preparations (we go in two weeks!) and Science Fair preparation. But we also managed to wrap up our learning on explorers, and get some other fun activities in.

December 3
NaNoWriMo was over! My class and I (plus all of the 5th and 6th graders, and our prinicpal at our school) spent the month of November writing novels. We celebrated by having a NaNo Cafe! Students brought in their favorite mugs and a drink mix and treats to share. We enjoyed our hot drinks and listened to an excerpt or synopsis of each students' novel. I was blown away by my amazing authors! I too met my goal of 50,000 words!

December 12 (12/12/12)
My math class dubbed this day "Mega Mode Day". My math class has really been enjoying doing Calendar Math during our intervention rotation. On the back side they have to use numbers from the date to find the mean, median, mode, and range. Because we hadn't done Calendar Math on a day which had any repeating numbers they were anticipating December to finally have a mode. December 12 was a big deal to them, our para even brought them some treats to celebrate Mega Mode Day! I'm guessing this group of kiddos will always remember what the mode is!

This was also my sister's due date! We were hoping that my new niece or nephew (she didn't have any ultrasounds/sonograms and wanted it to be a surprise) would arrive on this day and have a memorable birthday. Even though I had sub plans ready to go, there was no sign of baby.

December 16
My niece was born! I was so lucky to be able to be present for the birth of my niece. She was born at home, in a birthing tub in my sister's room. She had amazing help from the midwives and after only a few hours of labor caught her baby! It was so amazing! I just love being an auntie!

December 17-20
Our last week before break was filled with so much! I'm surprised we were able to finish everything. The highlights...

I had purchased Mr. Hughes awesome holiday dodechahedron ornament project, but because we were short on time I ended up using his template (don't be mad at me Mr. Hughes!) and combined it with our reading marathon. Unfortunately I have misplaced the origin/inspiration of the reading marathon, but I have been trying it out at the end of each quarter since I expect my students to read X number of words each quarter. This gives them a last push to get those words in. So, the students read for a set amount of time (usually around 10 minutes) and then they complete an activity for 5 minutes. This continues until we've completed all the activities and we've read tons! Some of the activities included...draw a picture of the main character, describe the problem, make a prediction...we only had time for 6, so I had the students use red/green paper to fill in the rest. These looked great hanging in our classroom windows.

This year I was inspired by this Pinterest find for the students to make as their holiday gift to their parents. My whole team loved the idea and so we had to special order 100+ embroidery hoops from Hobby Lobby. I have a wonderful parent helper who cut out 100+ squares of muslin for the project and my class used watercolors for theirs. The other teachers also had success with Crayola markers. I'm really pleased with how they turned out, I hope their parents liked them as much as I did. If I were a parent, I know I'd just cherish these!

Another Pinterest inspiration was our gift to our students. We each whipped up a Wordle for our kids and we had two amazing elves (parent helpers) who put them in frames for us, and even wrapped them! It was so generous of them to spend several hours of busy holiday time to help us out. The kids absolutely LOVED them! As soon as they opened them each kid set them at their spot to admire all day. Many even told me that they knew exactly where in their rooms they were going to put their framed name art. I heard multiple thanks during the day, and enjoyed being asked what some of the adjectives meant.

Our two week break has been flying by! I've spent much of my time with my sister/nephew/niece or snuggled up on the sofa with my husband and kitties. I had hoped to get some planning in for the next quarter, as well as get some more resources created, but I've been perfectly fine with relaxing. Plus, my MacBook has been slowing down on me recently (hey, I've had it since 2006!) and so last night put in an order for a new one. I'm looking forward to some increased speed and power! 

I know I don't have many readers/followers, but I appreciate those that do stop by. I hope that the coming year brings renewal and prosperity for you all.