Whether they are furry, scaled or feathered, animals claim a soft spot in the hearts of many Montessori Tides School families. This love crosses over into the classrooms, too. All of our classrooms have animals, and the children take part in their care.
Ms. Johanna’s Toddler classroom has a bunny, fish and finches. She said the children usually are eager to help feed the animals when invited to do so, and some children make feeding the animals part of their morning routine.
Ms. Johanna added that feeding a class pet often is a welcome activity when a child needs to regroup or when the child needs a positive experience.
“It is obvious to the child that they did something helpful when they feed a pet, and the pet responds by eating,” she said.
In Ms. Meghan’s Toddler classroom, she has a hermit crab and fish. Her new fish tank came into the classroom through a grant. The children often help to feed the fish, and Ms. Meghan said there’s a lot of activity around the classroom pets.
Basil the bunny is quite a draw in Ms. Kate and Ms. Brittany’s Primary classroom. The children love to bring in food from home or cut herbs from the school garden for him.
Ms. Kathy’s Primary classroom has fish and a pair of parakeets, Pickles and Sky. Children are able to sit and observe the birds for short periods of time. The birds’ chatter is pleasant background noise to the usual hum of the classroom.
Ms. Kathy said having the Primary children help with feeding the classroom animals builds on their practical life skills. They work on their motor control skills when they carry the animals’ food and feed them. They also develop a sense of responsibility for and connection to the animals with whom they share a classroom.
The Elementary children take a greater role in taking care of their classroom pets. The zoologist in Lower Elementary is responsible for feeding the beta fish and fire-bellied toad. It’s a job they take seriously, and it rotates through the classroom to a different child each week.
Ms. Elaine, who helps to take care of the animal habitats in the Lower Elementary classroom, thought of the “Humphrey” book series about a hamster that the children enjoy when asked about the importance of the zoologist role in her classroom.
“It’s fun, fun, fun,” she said, adding that it’s important for the children to learn how to care for another species.
In Upper Elementary, the zoologist is responsible for feeding Froggy, an albino river frog, his frozen mealworms each school day. Last year, the children gave Froggy a new habitat at the end of the year, and they helped Ms. Jess with moving him to his new home.
The care of animals doesn’t stop at the classroom door. The Primary children replant the playground garden each spring with butterfly plants. Many of the classrooms have birdfeeders on their decks. Ms. Meghan’s toddlers recently made pine cone birdfeeders for their feathered friends.
Of course, probably the most famous pet at Montessori Tides School is Munson, Mr. Brad and Ms. Nancy’s Olde English bulldog. Munson greets most visitors to the office at Montessori Tides School with his loud and deep bark, but visitors soon learn that Munson is quite lovable — and huggable, as many of our students can’t go by him without giving him a hug, or at least a pat.
“Most of the children, and even their parents, really look forward to seeing Munson,” Ms. Nancy said. “He helps to make our school friendlier — once you get past his bark.”
As Maria Montessori said, “The child who has felt a strong love for his surroundings and for all living creatures, who has discovered joy and enthusiasm in work, gives us reason to hope that humanity can develop in a new direction.”