Thursday, May 31, 2012

What to do when a class pet dies

"Oh no. He died! Oh no, oh no! The caterpillar died!" 

On Friday, we found a horned caterpillar much like this one near the garden.

It was about an inch and half long and about the width of a thumb. The interesting thing about it was how reactive it was to stimuli. At the gentlest touch, it flipped onto its back and right side up in a flash. After a quick reminder of using gentle hands when handling living creatures, the kids had a BLAST exploring it up close with magnifying glasses. 

Can you guess what story we read at circle time that day? 

Well...after we were finished observing the caterpillar, I put him in the glass aquarium that we are currently using to grow corn. I tossed in a couple of leaves from the tree we found him in, a branch (just in case it wanted to build a cocoon over the weekend), watered the plants, and forgot about it until Tuesday morning. 
(We didn't have school on Monday in honor of Memorial Day). 


Needless to say...the poor thing didn't make it to Tuesday. Simon discovered the dead caterpillar buried half way into the soil (it must have dug a hole over the weekend). I pulled it out, and realized that it was dead. 
At first, they asked me. "How did he die?" I posed the question back to them. "What do you think? How do you think it died?"The comments from the children were...well...see for yourself!

Not a single child answered, "I don't know." They really took the time to think about it. They got out the magnifying glasses to see if it was injured. They turned it around and upside down, discussed it in length with each other, and I frantically scribbled their responses onto index cards. 

As they hypothesized, I posed more open-ended questions:

"Maybe he got died because he scratched himself." -Diego
"How do you think he scratched himself?" -Me

We spent the rest of our free time investigating, hypothesizing, observing, and discussing. Who knew that a dead caterpillar could be such an enriching experience? 

What do you do when a class pet dies? Investigate! Hypothesize. Discuss. Hypothesize some more. And please....don't forget to write down what the kids say!

Happy playing!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Our New Classroom Pet: Snails


I know it's been a while, but now that college classes are out for the summer, I am back to blogging! I'm so excited to be back! As soon as school was out, I was able to go on a much-needed 10 day family vacation to San Diego, CA. I have a huge family (3 brothers and 3 sisters), and we have gradually moved away from each other to different parts of the country. Its rare we spend time together, and it was refreshing to be around family again!

While I was in San Diego, I found a nest of snails on the outer wall and plants of my brother's apartment. I wouldn't have paid them much attention, except that my three year old son, D, would get excited EVERY single time we entered and exited my brother's apartment. He's never really been an animal lover. He's afraid of cats and dogs, and will usually only tolerate creatures if they are behind a glass cage.
 I figured if HE liked snails, so would my classroom. Before we left, he helped me pick a couple of hostages to take home with us. 

I didn't want to let my son down, and let the snails die within days of bringing them to Arizona. Obviously, dry, desert heat is not their natural environment. I looked up basic snail care to keep Scooter and Slow-Poke alive. 

Snail Care Rules: 
  1. Never, ever, EVER pick a snail up by it's shell. Slide your finger under the snail, and pick it up from the bottom. 
  2. Snails eat fresh  fruits, veggies and a steady supply of calcium. The calcium is very important, as it helps keep their shells nice and healthy. You can buy a cuttlefish bones from the pet store. I happened to grab a couple of dead snail shells from the nest in my brother's yard, and those will do just fine. If snails don't have a steady supply of calcium, they will eat their own shells.
  3. Snails need a clean, fresh, damp environment. Arizona is not very damp, so I make sure to spray their cage at least once or twice a day with water.  You can also keep a small, shallow dish of fresh water in the cage to keep it humid. I prefer to spray. 
  4. I put fresh, clean soil at the bottom of the snail cage, along with the vacant snail shells, and fresh veggies. So far, so good! I've managed to keep them alive for more than two weeks...thank you very much! :)

For more information, you can look at this website. I found it very helpful:

When I brought the snails into the classroom, they generated an enthusiastic response. D was excited to show off "his" snails. I kept having to remind him that I brought them for the class. He agreed to share them with his friends, as long as he can help take care of them. :)

This is the cage I picked for the snails. This is before I added the soil to the bottom. 

Now that I'm certain I can keep the snails alive, I've started a "Snail Buddy" system. Every weekend, parents can sign up to take the snails home. I send a journal with care instructions on first page. Parents care for the snails with their children, and can journal about it over the weekend. On Mondays, the children can share their experiences with the class at circle time. 

This weekend was the first time the snails and journal were sent home with a parent. I will update on how that goes, along with pictures of the journal. 

How do you incorporate living creatures into your curriculum? 
I would love to hear about it!

Happy playing!
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