One of the teachers offering students a live learning experience is Bob Whipkey, a sixth-grade science teacher at White Pines Middle School. His class has hissing cockroaches, geckos, birds, chinchillas, and a pond complete with fish and turtles.
“We bring the outdoor in with this classroom,” he said.
Whipkey said the animals might be a distraction on the first day of the school year, but they draw the students into related classroom lessons.
Some of the animals have been donated, while others were purchased at a discounted rate, Whipkey said.
One of the ways students are learning from the animals is by participating in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' "Salmon in the Classroom" project. Students monitor the fish from the time they’re eggs until it’s time to release them in the stream, Whipkey said.
Ellen Stolarski, 11, said the classroom pets teach them about responsibility for feeding and taking care of animals.
“They make me feel happy,” she said.
Students in Fruitport Middle School teacher Colin Brown’s classes also learn from animals. Brown, a sixth-grade science and eighth-grade math teacher, said he’s had a turtle for 15 years and salamanders for five years, and purchased snakes for this school year.
Brown said adding animals to the classroom increases attention, creates discussion and helps develop a better understanding for students.
“They learn much better through seeing, touching and experiencing than they do through just reading about it,” he said.
To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.