- Sponsorship -

Providing Creature Comforts, on Their Own

Students Take Care of Classroom Critters

Leopard geckos, degus, a sand boa, fishes and a painted turtle all call Steve McClintock’s science classroom home.

In the morning before the bell rings, the science lab at Kent City Middle School also provides sanctuary for students who want to see the animals, care for them or just hang out.

“I don’t even have all of them in class,” McClintock said. “They just come in, help take care of the animals and then they go about their day.”

Kent City Middle School science teacher Steve McClintock reaches inside a terrarium to remove a painted turtle

Every morning, a group select of middle schoolers — Emily Lantzer, Austin Loew and brothers Sawyer and Austin DeGroot — devote their time to feeding the animals and maintaining their habitats.

The students are fully equipped with knowledge about the creatures’ behaviors, from molting to mating to the likelihood a creature’s tail, if severed, would grow back.

“I used to have 25 animals at my house,” Emily said, with a degu (pronounced day-goo), a rodent closely related to and resembling a rat, sniffing the air from its perch on her shoulder. “Three cats, a lot of chickens, five degus, four rabbits, five fishes and a lot more.”

The degu on her shoulder was one of two she donated to the classroom. Most of the other animals also arrived by donation, McClintock said.

Emily Lantzer holds the sand boa

“A lot of the community members and my former students know I have a classroom zoo at times,” he said. “A lot of times parents will give me a phone call or give me a heads-up: ‘We’ve got an animal, you want it?'”

Animals Pique Career Interests

The pod of caretakers are responsible for other students, making sure they treat the animals with respect. For Sawyer DeGroot, it’s also an opportunity to pursue a passion for biology.

“I really liked learning from the animals and seeing what all their cool features are,” Sawyer said. “That would be a great career.”

Austin Loew said one of his top matches from an online career assessment was zookeeper. When he learned the sand boa escaped a previous year, he said, “I should have been there!”

Austin Loew (left) and Sawyer DeGroot use markings to tell the two leopard geckos apart

Emily scooped her hand slowly along the sand to find the docile reptile, taking extra care because he’s close to molting his skin. He sometimes eats as many as two mice a week, she said.

McClintock has in the past kept an iguana with a mean temper, and a bearded dragon who died in the fall. The creatures sometimes come in handy during lessons. He’s had students go on to study biology in college, or become teachers with class pets in their own classrooms. But for most, he said, it’s about community and curiosity.

“A lot of times it’s a safe haven for kids to come in and care for animals, which goes way beyond anything I can teach,” hesaid.


Study on Benefits of Pets in the Classroom

Teacher Grants for Classroom Pets

- Sponsorship -


Vaccine trial participant: ‘I really want to get back to normal’

Orchestra teacher and cellist Eric Hudson longs for the days when he can direct student musicians in concerts and tours and play in his own ensemble once again. To help speed that process along, he is participating in a COVID-19 vaccine trial...

Longtime agriscience teacher earns honorary FFA degree

After 24 years of teaching, John Schut believes incorporating fun and service into education is more engaging for students than taking notes in a classroom...

Stress, studies and the pandemic: a steep learning curve

In response to the social and emotional impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rockford’s Developing Healthy Kids Campaign wants students and families to know they are not alone...

Health Department helps schools tackle challenges of instruction, during winter, in a pandemic

Working with the health department has been crucial in helping area school leaders understand the nature of COVID-19, the types of mitigation strategies that can be most effective and how to plan for the future...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

At-home learners stay connected through a new resource

In late October, Kent City Elementary opened a designated room to give families who have chosen virtual education extra resources and support...

Mapping the road to learning

Elementary teachers Billie Freeland and Nicole Andreas are at the forefront of using a curriculum designed to further educational goals, regardless of whether students are in person or online...

Homecoming, modified

The coronavirus pandemic has forced school districts to make changes to the ways they celebrate some annual traditions...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU