Moose River Farm Blog

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Animals in the Classroom...14 Years Later

        Good Evening,
        For the first six years that I taught sixth grade, my classroom was full of an assortment of pets.  The benefits of having these animals in the classroom could fill volumes of text and cover every NYS learning standard ever developed and revised!  From scientific studies to lengthy writing assignments, our classroom pets inspired kids to look beyond the 'aw' factor and synthesize sophisticated, cognitive observations, thus sparking the neurological synapses developing within preteen brains.  (How's that for teacher talk?)
        To the rats, iguanas, hedgehogs and a veiled chameleon, (Animals in the Classroom), I owe a debt of gratitude for reaching kids in the places I couldn't begin to touch with just my teacher training.  Despite all of these positive learning experiences, perhaps the most lasting lessons the animals provided were the ones that cemented the students and me through the year as a 'family' connected by compassion for our animals.  
        A change of school administration marked the end of the classroom animals in 1999.  Shortly, before the new millennium I was faced with trying to convey the same academic content all by myself without the help of my 'co-teachers'.  How could I possibly have the same effect on a child without the secret ingredient that the animals had provided?  
        As it turned out, animals had only physically left my classroom.  After a bit of searching, I brought them back by way of nonfiction books, magazines and with a budding technology called the internet.  These references, in turn, encouraged the students to seek inspiration from pets in their own lives.      
        Fourteen years later I am still incorporating animals in the classroom.  Perhaps some of my inspiration to write Finding My Way to Moose River Farm comes from the array of nonfiction animal books that have been published over the years.  Among them is a little gem, called That Quail Robert by Margaret Stanger.  The book was published in  the 1960's and is a memoir of the life of a delightful little quail who found its way into the home and hearts of a retired couple living on Cape Cod.  At the time the book was written, Robert was still vivid in the minds of those living in the small town of Orleans where the story took place.  
          I have just finished reading the book to my class of fifth graders and although it has been a few years since I read it last, I have never forgotten the power with which the story inspires young authors to write about their own beloved pets.  Even the dignity with which Robert's death is recorded, (inevitable in most books about animals), prompted some of my writers to begin penning the story of a deceased pet.  Robert's life brought emotions to the surface and allowed them to flow into words on paper.  Isn't that the way to inspire youngsters?  
        With the help of my students, I have collected images of the faces who appear in the stories currently being written about them.  Enjoy!

Jack's dog , Ted is the main character in his story.
Kyah's story is currently being written by her girl, Hannah.
Josie is thrilled to belong to Megan who is anxious to tell her dog's tale on paper.
Wyatt's dog, Camp is a member of the family with a story to tell.

Kami loves to write about her cat, Callie.

Dylan writes about his dog, Ruby with whom he shares a special bond.
Grady's lovely dog, McKinley provides a lot to write about.

Dakota's story will be well worth the wait when her boy, Nolan finishes writing it.
Emily is an avid horsewoman....

and writer.  Her dog, Charlie will appear in her story.

Julie's two dogs, Bode and Sky are an inspiration for her writing.

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