FSE Teacher Convinced to Get “Fluffy”
One component of fourth-grade writing curriculum is working on persuasive speeches and students in Sonya Meldahl’s class at Fields Store Elementary (FSE) decided to use the learning opportunity to plead their case for a class pet. They were successful. Here’s how!
“The topics of their speeches were totally their choice,” Meldahl said. “Most of my students wrote that we needed a class pet and they had never mentioned having a class pet before!”
Students were told to choose an area they felt most passionate about and write a speech about the topic. Some students wrote about having more playground equipment, books, or longer recess time, but the majority felt passionate about having a pet. Having researched persuasive writings, students knew they had to justify their argument with valid reasons. They wrote that a pet would give them something to love and help calm them if they were upset, and included solutions on how they would help care for the pet. They also included requests on what pet they wanted for the class. While some wanted a dog, turtle, or guinea pig, most wanted a bunny.
“When I went home and read all of their papers, I was convinced,” Meldahl said. “I knew I had to take action.”
Over winter break, Meldahl gathered the necessary supplies and adopted a female rabbit from a family. The rabbit was officially introduced to the class on Jan. 21 and students were thrilled to welcome her. News of the arrival quickly spread throughout FSE and many other students and teachers now visit Meldahl’s class to spend time with her.
“When I first brought her in, students were so excited!” Meldahl said. “They took turns petting her and immediately told their parents. Many have begun incorporating her into their writing as well.”
Meldahl let students vote on a name for the rabbit and they chose Fluffy. To make caring for Fluffy a team effort, Meldahl created a rotation for students to take turns watering, feeding, and brushing her. Permission slips were also sent home to parents to allow students to take her home over weekends and holidays. In the short time Fluffy has been in the classroom, Meldahl has already seen a significant change in students.
“Several students have gone to sit by her when they have felt upset, angry, and were needing to calm down. She has had a calming effect on many of my students,” Meldahl said. “Sometimes when a child's behavior is escalating, an animal can be the best remedy! While adults might be viewed as threatening and other students may be annoying, an animal symbolizes love and acceptance.”