This morning, a group of students spent a large chunk of their morning play time designing and implementing a classroom pet store. The students worked diligently to draw various pets that could be sold and decided together how much each pet should cost. It wasn’t long before they pulled out the cash register and started making money and credit cards that people could use to purchase the animals. The name of the pet store is still up for debate but lots of ideas were tossed around. The look of excitement was clearly present on each of their faces and we are anxious to see how this pet store will grow and prosper within the classroom.
This morning a Pittsburgh Opera ensemble joined North Hills Campus students for an adventure exploring opera. This is an annual presentation that mixes improvisation, opera, world languages, and story telling. The actors come prepared with a trunk full of props and a bucket full of topic ideas. The children choose a story plot randomly and then choose two arias for each singer to perform. The students pick the arias based on the emotions they think will fit best with the story. At the end, the new show is put together and performed for the students.
And now for the topic for today’s show….
(drum roll, please)
The Family Pet
No, really. I swear I didn’t put that piece of paper in their jar of choices. It gets even better. The actors (without any coaching from me or the class) began referring to the “setting” as a Pet Shop. Now, I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the Pre-K built a pet shop in our classroom two days ago. Our children were so completely connected with the opera ensemble! I wonder if we’ll see any singing in our class pet store?
Our study of pets could only end one way. You knew it was coming. Last week we piled into the vans and headed off to the Seahorse to check out how a real pet store works and peruse their wares.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by Heather, who had kindly opened the doors to us one hour before the store opened for the public. As she took us on a viewing tour of the animals, she explained the jobs many of the workers were doing to prepare for the day. Birds were being fed, cages cleaned, and puppy toenails were being clipped. We saw chinchillas and lizards, parakeets and leopard geckos.
The most beautiful was certainly the saltwater aquarium portion. The children spent many minutes peering into the tanks, searching for living treasures. Although it was exciting to see the clown fish, everyone’s favorite movie fish, it was the lion fish that held their attention rapt. We also found starfish, crabs, and an octopus.
During our visit, at least one child was brave enough to hold a bearded dragon. Many others felt its skin and then followed up with a generous amount of hand sanitizer.
The next stop was the freshwater fish, but we got a wee bit distracted on the way. One of the workers was clipping a puppy’s toenails as we walked past. Pandemonium reigned.
(In case you are wondering, we came home with five pets: two fish, two newts, and a millipede. Creatures that hopefully I can handle.)
Following many play scenarios involving pets, we decided to focus more directly on this topic. We began the study by creating a list of all of our favorite animals. (We tried to include some animals we didn’t love as much, too.) Next, each child helped sort the collection into two groups: Pets and Not Pets. After a lengthy discussion, it was concluded that some animals can be considered to be both. For instance, a fish can be a pet, but if you catch one in a pond, it is a wild fish and needs to be free in the pond. (Luckily, no one had recently eaten freshly caught fish, or I would have been having a completely different conversation.)
Each child then imagined what it would be like to have the pet of their dreams. Using a few prompts for help, the children answered such questions as: What does your pet like to eat? Where does it sleep? What does it like to do? The plan is to use these answers to create a book.
One of the conversations we heard in play centered around taking care of sick animals. We chose to revisit their beloved potion making station and create medicinal potions for sick pets. We took this activity one step further this time, building off of our previous week’s introduction to recipes.
Mystery Project on Wednesday provided the children with a chance to design their own pet using random art supplies. Watching them plan, glue, change, re-glue, demolish, and recreate a variety of animals was almost as much fun as making them ourselves.
Of course, once you have a pet, you need to have someplace for it to live.
And we can’t forget that we’ll need someplace to shop for all of our pets’ needs. Our simple cardboard pet shop was instantly transformed with tables, beds, more cages and kennels, food dishes, decorations and a large selection of aquariums.