Luxton has a fast, furry friendJune 2, 2021
At Luxton School, the teacher’s pet is surprisingly popular.
Tracey Sheridan and her French immersion Kindergarten class adopted a Syrian hamster, who they’ve appropriately named Speedy.
“This year being what it has been, classroom community and engagement have been even more important. I often have class pets and find that animals are a great way to unite students and build connections,” Sheridan said.
“This year, we have a class hamster. He is a Syrian hamster named Speedy. I should say her, since we discovered after a few months that Speedy is female, not male as I was informed when adopting her.”
In addition to being as cute as a button, Speedy has provided Sheridan’s students with plenty of learning opportunities.
“One of the first experiences was guessing which animal was going to live in the habitat that was set up before she arrived. We narrowed it down to a hamster, hedgehog or guinea pig.,” Sheridan said.
“After the hamster arrived, students had a chance to vote on a name. This was an introduction to the voting process. This is not an easy concept for five- and six-year-old students to grasp and only getting one choice is hard. When your first choice doesn't win or get chosen, it’s a tough lesson to learn.”
The students also learned how to take care of Speedy, including what she eats and what she needs to live.
"I learned that hamsters can only eat certain things - bananas, apples, some seeds, pumpkin seeds. And they can eat strawberries. They can eat lettuce, but with no dressing!” said Aria, a student.
“Whenever they grab food, they hold it in their mouth and then take it into their house and eat it,” said Keifer, a student.
“Hamsters need to learn your smell before you can touch them,” Aria said.
However, it’s not all learning and no play. In mid-February, the students started constructing a hamster playground for Speedy.
“We began by watching videos of others who had created mazes and play spaces for hamsters,” Sheridan said.
“Next, students drew out their idea for what they would like to make for our playground. Then, with craft supplies and recyclables set out, they chose and collected the materials they thought they would need to build their design. The students next met with me to work one-on-one with a glue gun to help them build their ideas. The final steps were putting walls on our base and setting up the obstacles.”
The Luxton students finished the project in mid-April and Speedy now has a place to show her smarts and burn off some excess energy.
“Hamsters need a big cage because they need room to run around,” said Avery, a student.
Even in remote learning, students can check on their pal Speedy.
“I post videos of her to my YouTube channel (Madame TeeTee) so students can share their love and learning of hamsters with their families,” Sheridan said.
Also, in February, Sheridan and her students adopted a second furry friend, a dwarf hamster, who it turns out was pregnant and birthed seven babies.
“Students have also seen how a hamster grows,” Sheridan said. “One of my students adopted one of the babies and a student in another class also adopted one.”