Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Class Pets.......Beasts of Burden?

When we started our year, I struggled to come up with 2 living things that our class could care for. I am not good with plants, so I dismissed the idea of a plant right off the bat. Last year, the class had hamsters, but the upkeep and and the cost of bedding, etc. was more than I wanted to take on this year. Years ago, I had a fire bellied newt that we kept in our home for a friend for about 8 months. I really wanted to get one for my class, but no one here in town carried them, in in Pre-K, you've got to be able to replace it on a minute's notice. I finally decided on aquatic frogs. The plan was for something that the kids could do most of the care for. I was told that they were not as dirty as most fish, so we went with it.

I got two and when school started, we named them. I had them at home for about a week before taking them to school and our family came up with all kinds of cute names linked to frog stories and characters. I thought surely "Kermit" or "Froggy" (from the Froggy book series) would surely be one of the names. WRONG!
In short order, our frogs were named Superman and Ariel!

My assistant teacher had hermit crabs at home that she offered to bring to share with our class. The kids love them! We take them out to the playground and let them play in the sandbox (with teacher supervision).

They have molted and the friends thought that was fascinating to watch! The great thing about the hernit crabs is the are travel safe, so the kids can sign up to take them home on weekends. We send them home in this great travel tank that even monitors the humidity! (It also belongs to my assistant.)

The frogs have been fun to watch and the kids have loved them, but we've had our share of trials and tribulations. One of our parents donated a large fish tank that we were keeping them in. We had a lot of problems keeping the tank clean. It seemed to need a lot more upkeep than I had planned. When the weather got cold, we had to consider a tank heater. I found out that there was one with the tank supplies that were donated. Then, one frog friend "went to be with his froggy mama". (We released a turtle earlier this year and told the kids he needed to be with his turtle mama, so when one of the kids suggested this was where the frog had gone, I just went with it. I know, I'm a coward! I just would rather not start an ordeal where there's not one already. I vow to do time. :)

I didn't realize that the heater had to be fully immersed in water and the cord only allowed it to hang from the top of the tank. Our tank was only half full of water (they didn't need that much). One early morning before anyone else was there, I was trying to clean the tank a little and the heater apparently touched the edge of the tank and exploded. The hiss and sizzle of electricity scared me half to death! This was right before Christmas break, so I brought home "Frog Friend" for the vacation to keep him warm. Over the vacation, I found this cute little corner tank for $9 at Walmart...everything included!  I found cute little lily pads that even float on the top!

When school started back, I bought another frog and added him to the tank, but he only lasted about 2 weeks. I felt really guilty about the large donated tank and decided I would make a terrarium out of it. Maybe if the plants need VERY LITTLE care, I could manage to keep them alive. While I had good intentions, I couldn't seem to get going. I finally got the tank fully cleaned---we had rainy weather and I had to wash it outside. I did research and found that there were some specialty supplies needed, like aquarium charcoal, so that took a while for me to get. After several weeks of procrastination, I finally got the terrarium started last week.  First, we layed each layer: gravel, charcoal, moss, soil, moss. Luckily, we have lots of spaghnum moss growing naturally outside, so I didn't have to buy that.

When we went on our pet store field trip earlier in the fall, I saw lots of cute little terrarium plants that needed very little care. After that, I saw terrarium plants everywhere. That was one of the main reasons I decided to try this. I went out this weekend to get plants and nobody had any! Ugggghhhh! I bought the last three I could find and found another plant that was a little bigger, but thought it might work. We planted them this week.

Our finished terrarium turned out nice. I'm sure we'll add to it as we go, but it is a relief to finally have it done!

I noticed our frog tank was getting yucky and I REALLY didn't want to do the whole tank cleaning thing as often, so I did some research and read that snails would do the trick. I told the kids we would be adding snails to the tank. When we went to play outside, inevitably, the friends found a snail. "Can we keep him? We could put him in our tank!" I quickly made a judgment call to put him in a little habitat in our science center until we found out if he would survive the environment change.

That night, I checked the internet and found that land snails and aquatic snails are two different species!
I did go out and I got a couple of aquatic snails.

( I wish I had taken another picture today~ the tank doesn't have any green algae on the flowers or glass anymore!)

In almost two short days, our tank is almost spotless! The little suckers (pun intended) have done an amazing job. Considering all I wanted was 2 hassle free living things for my classroom, this has been quite the ordeal. I hope we are done for the year! I can't take any more pet drama! : )


  1. haha, cool tank. I do love pets since I was a litte kid, especially water pets. It's nice to introduce another water species besides the fishes. It will add their knowledge of water animals. By the way, watch out the water snails, they will eat all over your plant's leaves :). I guess.......... :o)

  2. For better or worse, I've never had a classroom pet unless you count the year I had my standard poodle in class (in her crate). I'm trying to get a good worm bed going outside, but that's about it. I know the kids would love it, but whenever the subject comes up, it just sounds like work for me!

  3. You are so good Ayn, we tried guinea pigs one year ... such a lot of work. These days we opt for the ant farm. Every body wins. The ants are well fed, safe and cared for. The children are absolutely fascinated by them. When they start to look a bit dodgy you can replace them and no one is any the wiser (wink, wink) and when the novelty wears off they go back into the garden .. yep we reckon ant farms are the way to go for us! You should be congratulated for your efforts Ayn ... so congratulations!!

  4. I am terrible with plants and animals - except dogs:) I like your perseverance.

  5. Phew! The things we do for our kids! :) We've had the same 5 plants in our classroom for about 4 1/2 years. I can't grow them at home, but they do so well at school. We also have a beta fish, Red Fred. They last about 2 years...and clean up is very easy.
    I love the frogs and snails...I wonder how my aide would feel about that? :)

  6. My own children have hermit crabs and love them. My four year old likes to build mazes and race tracks for them with his unit blocks. If I ever go back to teaching I will definitely get hermit crabs.

  7. I don't think am brave enough to try a class pet. I admire your effort!!

  8. Wow, you were so determined to see this through. Good on you! Such a learning process too!

    Thank you so very much for the Honest Scrap award. I feel honoured that you considered me (and in such awesome company) for this award.

    I always enjoy learning about bloggers I admire through these awards - whoever made any negative statements about you and the classrrom now has egg all over their face, they clearly had no idea and never knew what they were talking about!

  9. I love this...I accidentally sent some pics to the fan site on teach preschool instead of you. go check them out...they are things to do with snails! I love the snails. Great idea!!

  10. I think you are super for trying! I love a good class pet but it is a lot of work.

    We, too, have beta fish. I have always had great luck with them at home. At school they keep dying. We have been through quite a few of them this year, but they all look the same so kids are none the wiser! LOL


    I am thinking about getting a frog next year.


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