‘Wonderful School Memory’: North Allegheny Class Pets Offer Different Learning Opportunities

Not everyone in Dana Cornelius’ third-grade class at Peebles Elementary School gets fed fish on her birthday.

But Yertle does.

The Yertle Tortoise is a pet of the Cornelius class.

And speaking of birthdays, he turns 25 on September 11.

“Yertle brings so much excitement to our third grade classroom. We sing to him and feed him fish every year on his birthday. On the helpful chart, each student has a week where they feed him. are,” said Cornelius, who acquired Yertle in 2001.

“When I look at the students I had 20 years ago, they still ask about Yertle the turtle. He’s really been a wonderful memory of the school for generations,” said Cornelius, 27 at Peebles. I have been a teacher for years.

Kelly Shutt’s second-grade class at Hoosack Elementary School has a more frisky option, with guinea pigs and Sage, ages 4 and 5, respectively.

However, her class pet journey began more than five years ago with two miniature hamsters for Hosack students.

“Students loved reading about (children’s book characters) ‘Humphrey’ and ‘Ralph S. Mouse,’ and making real-life connections between our pets and the people in their stories,” she said. were the ones he liked,” he said. “We also enjoyed using our science and math skills to build humane traps and research the best ways to lure our little escape artists to their habitat home.”

Life, though, was short for hamsters. So, as fate would have it, a local family was moving in and gifting two sweet guinea pigs, Ginny and her daughter, Squeaks.

“Students read about caring for animals. They volunteered to clean and feed them, and even offered to take them home on breaks. Some students never interacted with live animals. No. We learn as a class how to be gentle with animals, talk gently and pay attention to possibly chirping or chirping, and we get to observe the relationships between animals. have to do as they grow and change,” said Shute, at the school for seven years

Unfortunately, Squeaks died in 2023 a few days before school ended. Although it was unexpected and sad, according to Schutt, it provided another learning opportunity.

“All living things grow, change and eventually die,” he said. “Our class grew closer as we talked and related about our peers’ individual losses and the losses of their class. We learned about how guinea pigs are social creatures, interacting with their humans and connected to each other, and how to support Ginny when she misses her baby.”

They found Sage, a guinea pig who had recently lost her sister.

“After a trying week, Ginny and Sage moved in together, and the cheers and chatter started again,” Schutte said.

Two turtles, Taylor and Travis, also joined Shutt’s class last year. They help teach about the life cycle, animal adaptations, classification, social and emotional learning, responsibility, empathy, understanding and compassion, he said.

Hozek’s second-grade teacher Amy DeVenzio didn’t say what birthday snack the buttercup ball python got, but her students are certainly intrigued and curious about the snake.

DiVenzio said her students named her Buttercup when she brought her more than 20 years ago.

“I use buttercups in second grade to reinforce my study of animal groups,” said DeVenzio, who has been at Hoosack for 31 years.

According to the teacher, Buttercup is another classroom friend with great qualities.

“Students love to touch her and are usually amazed at how she feels,” he said.

Natalie Benoit is a Tribe Total Media contributing writer.

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