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Pets in the Classroom

With names like Squeaky and Sir Eats-a-Lot on the class list, taking attendance can get pretty exciting at Cambridge Christian School in Cambridge, Ontario.

Squeaky is a cute little guinea pig who's always present in Miss VanderSpek's Grade One class.

The furry little guinea pig may be the smallest creature in class, but she's a big hit when it comes to capturing the attention and imagination of all 23 of her six-year old classmates.

Squeaky's become quite an attraction at the school. The first-graders are always eager to greet her early in the morning and later when they come in from recess.

Squeaky Nose Food
"One of the coolest things about Squeaky is that she seems to know when the nutrition breaks are," says VanderSpek.

When the children come in from recess, the hungry little pet will start squeaking like crazy as if she's saying "Don't forget me!" and more importantly "Where are my carrots?"

The kids love taking turns feeding her bits of apple, cucumber, pepper as well as some hay. They're also very eager to give away their lunch carrots, which means less for them to eat.


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Photogenic Guinea Pig

"Squeaky is often in great demand for photo opps. The kids have dressed her up and put her on toy cars," explains VanderSpek.  

They love it when the teacher takes her out of her cage and they get to pet her. VanderSpek usually holds her, since the classroom pet hasn't gotten used to her exercise ball. Squeaky enjoys being held, but doesn't like it when the teacher reaches in the cage to take her out.

New Meaning to Homework
VanderSpek has allowed some students to take Squeaky home at Christmas, during the March break, or even in the summer. 

"They love this opportunity to get a pet "on loan" to see if it's something they might like to do on a more permanent basis. They usually come back with lots of stories and have really enjoyed the experience," she says.

Sir Eats-a-Lot
Just down the hall in Miss Brouwer's Second Grade class, there's a bearded dragon who also gets a lot of attention from his classmates.

The kids named him Sir Eats-a-Lot because he has a big appetite, especially for crickets. All 23 second-graders take an active part in caring for Sir Eats-A-Lot by feeding him crickets as well as vegetables.

Miss Brouwer says that he has a bit of an attitude and is usually never satisfied with the amount of crickets he gets. He'll sit for long periods of time perched on his plants, looking out of his cage as if saying:  "Where are my crickets. I got only a dozen!"

Fun in the Classroom
When he's not gulping down his food, he loves to spend time outside his terrarium, chasing things on the floor or lounging on the window sill, soaking up the rays on sunny afternoons.

He also enjoys sitting on Miss Brouwer's shoulders while she's marking the children's school work.

Some students take him home on occasion, especially during vacations, to babysit him. Children later talk about getting a pet reptile after caring for him.

"Outsiders who visit our classrooms are quite entertained by our pets as well. When new parents scout our school, their children are quite eager to see the pets and it puts them more at ease," notes VanderSpek.

Great Learning Experience
Both teachers say that they love having pets in their classrooms and believe it's a great learning opportunity for their children. It connects them directly with other living species, teaches them about responsibility, communicating and working together as a group for a common goal, and helps develop a sense of empathy for all animals in general.