July 17, 2019

rabbitI was very fortunate to have administrators who allowed me to keep live animals in my science classroom. I was very careful and took safety precautions. Students did not clean the animals’ cages; that was my responsibility. They received parental permission to be able to touch the animals or they could only observe without touching.

These lab animals were treated well; okay, maybe they were a little spoiled, but they provided such learning opportunities for my students. We made observations of physical and behavioral characteristics, learned their diet and eating habits, classified them into the appropriate animal group, and I taught the students to create scientific illustrations of each.

It was always inspiring to me how even Kindergarten students could follow me as I projected and illustrated these animals. Observing spongesWe used pencils and basic shapes to create each and then erased lines where needed. To make these officially scientific illustrations, we added labels to our illustrations. Kindergarten through 5th graders were always able to produce wonderful drawings and sometimes they surprised themselves at their abilities.

If you don’t have the space or wherewithal to plant a formal garden with students, potted plants or fresh vegetables/fruit can be used for students to make a connection between the food we eat and its origin. Handling the plants helps them to understand the function of each part as well. For instance, once a student pulls a radish or carrot from the ground/pot and must shake off the soil, they will remember that these are roots.

Linda Petuch is a retired STEM teacher, wanna be astronaut, NASA's biggest fan, avid gardener, small mammal whisperer, and educator extraordinaire from Palm Beach County, Florida.

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