Students AND Animals Learn Lessons at Windsor School

Winter gets a bad rap in these parts, especially when we’re smack dab in the middle of a doozie like this one. But there’s a bunch of 4th graders at Windsor Elementary School who will not only tell you that they love Winter, but you should, too!

Of course they’re talking about their foster rabbit that goes by that name, the one their teacher, Sarah Johnson, arranged for them to care for in a partnership with the overcrowded Animal Rescue League.

Winter is the biggest but by no means the only member of Windsor’s ARL menagerie. Each of the school’s 4th grade classrooms has made room for at least one more classmate. Tim Israel’s class has welcomed Bubbles the guinea pig. And the most popular members of Josh Buyck’s are the Rat Brothers, Cookie and Cream. To listen to their two-legged classmates talk, those boys are giving their species a good name.

Collectively the 4th grade is calling itself Critter Camp and, despite how fond each branch has become of its class pet, they all emphasize that the goal is to find suitable, permanent homes for Winter, Bubbles, Cookie and Cream. They’ve even launched a blog to help spread the word and sing the praises of their new, furry pals.

“This ties right in with the unit we’re studying about environments,” said Buyck. “And the blog is a great way to integrate writing. The kids are also eagerly accepting the responsibilities that come along with caring for animals and learning about community service by doing it.”

All three teachers agree that bringing pets into the classroom has been good for class morale. The animals are a common bond that’s positive for the kids, and, according to Johnson, “definitely helps when it comes to learning empathy,” an aspect of child development that research links to improved academic performance.

Credit Johnson with coming up with the idea after she saw a news item about no more room at the ARL inn. She carried it to her 4th grade colleagues who were gung-ho in favor as was their principal, Scott Nichols. Needless to say, it was no problem getting the kids on board.

In Buyck’s room Friday it was a matter of so many hands up, so little time when visitors dropped in to inquire about the new project. The kids there have already discussed and prepared themselves for the reality that achievement of their objective, a new family for Cookie and Cream, will be a bittersweet proposition. In less than two weeks they’ve already gotten attached. When that time comes there will be at least one upside – no more “chocolate chips” to dispose of when cleaning the cage. That’s the euphemism they use to refer to the brothers’, uh, residues. “They won’t be missed.” You can quote the whole class on that point.

There used to be an old trick to remember the spelling of arithmetic that went as follows: A rat in the house may eat the ice cream. Apparently rats in the classroom make their own.

To check out the Camp Critter blog click here:

Photos from Critter Camp at Windsor

DMPS-TV Report on Critter Camp

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