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July 9, 2010

In category: Lindsay's posts

Life’s Lessons.

Cheeky Ginger. One of Amanda's kittens

It is unrealistic to expect children to understand animal strait away and tell them off when they seem too rough, or too nervous with their pets.

Today at 3:00 there was the usual after-school rush.

I hear it coming like the wildebeest stampede in the Lion King.  I get prepared.  If all goes to plan, I’ve had a cup of coffee and a sneaky sit outside before the animal room gets rammed and I’m on duty.  Interacting until 4:30 with kids, adolescents and mum with buggies.

 Today was melting hot before the rush. All was quiet. Smokey was outside enjoying the sunshine, the rabbits were leaning against their icepacks and  was chatting with Mummy Bunny outside. Guess I was slightly late back in because I wandered back into mayhem and the scene that greeted me made me spill my coffee.

Bobalong’s kittens were on the move.  They had been little more than slugs lying in their bed last week.  Now they are three weeks old I guess now was the time for exploring.  All four were wobbling into eager hands, from what I could see between the little people and the buggy wheels. I barged my way  in and watched the scene. 

It can make you wince. Small children when faced with four week old kittens for the first time are overcome with that urge “I want to pick them up” and it’s a learning curb. Up until this point they have only played with toys and the kittens have only been stroked by people.

Picking them up? Hmm, it’s not such a good idea. Three week old kittens should really stay on the ground. I had two options:

- Demand a mass exodus of kids and guard the kittens with an anti-public scowl

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-Find a happy way in which kittens and children can interact.

I sat down on the ground between the kids and said that they should let them crawl onto their laps but, in the likely event they should want to leave to let them go. Funny thing with animals, the more space and trust you give them the more they want to be around you.  The only way to control animals is to do it without them realizing it!

The kids sat down and the lesson began. The mothers all helped and within no time we had Bobalong’s babies walking from lap to lap and enjoying the attention. It was working really well even though I still had to watch everyone like a hawk. One little girl, who was was clearly smitten, did the obvious and kept trying to grab at their bodies as if they were toys.

Honestly, how can we expect children to know otherwise? This mistake is the chance for the lesson.

“Look! It’s not a toy. It’s like another kid. This one’s alive. Watch it and it will come to you. Be gentle and it will like you.” The kitten responds, liking the gentle scritch of tiny fingers.

I swear sometimes you can see them learning. I’m talking about both the kitten and the child.

Bobalong's Babies (before they were mobile)

Anyway, this lesson lasted for a couple of minutes until Bobalong returned and mewed at her babies to be fed. As the last little kitten crawled into the basket with mum, there was a general sigh from the kids. It seemed unfair that the game should be over so soon. From round the corner a little lad shouted “I wanna hold Eric M the giant snail”

Now here was a game everyone could enjoy. Impromptu snail lesson coming up.

With more enthusiasm about mollusks than your average girl I yelled out “Who wants to hold some African Land snails?”

There was ripple of nervousness from the mums but another stampede to the snail tank from the kids.

Taking the snail tank down to floor level, a crowd had built up around our little snails. Eric M, our chief snail had disappeared into his shell so there was nothing to see. I didn’t want to disappoint the kids so I plucked out him and held him in my left hand as he slowly retracted to safety. I mentally told him to come out but the only response I got was a couple of bubbles like he was blowing me a raspberry. I felt like a raspberry. Come on, snails are cool…

“Where is he?” muttered the crowd. I spotted a little snail sliming its way along the branch and brought him to everyone’s attention.

“Watch this” I said, pulling out the branch for everyone to see.  Gently I poked his eye with my finger so the snail rolled it back into his head. “Don’t worry kids, this is how snails get safe. His eye will come back out again” I said and sure enough, not too offended from this poke the snail peered out his eye again. I took him off the branch and he waggled his body in space.

Somehow the kids were amazed and as I passed this little creature around as Eric M, who had been wondering what the fuss was about emerged. “He’s huge!” yelled the little boy  who had wanted to hold him. Another little girl shouted out that the snail’s whole body is called its toe. Goodness only knows how she knew that but she’s right and our snail lesson did not disappoint. Thankfully.

So for probably the first time in history snails have been used as a successful distraction from kittens. There was almost a fight when I brought out the cucumber and the water sprayer so we could give our pets something to eat and drink.

The mothers were relieved I provided hand wash afterwards.

And I think we all learnt something.

  1. sounds AMAZING! you could be the next micheala stracken! i think i might have to invest in some pets for my classroom to entertain the kids when they are bored of art! (not that my lessons are boring of course!)

    Comment by paula — July 10, 2010 @ 5:48 am

  2. Thanks Paula! I can recommend African Land Snails and stick insects. I have hundreds of them…

    Comment by admin — July 10, 2010 @ 11:19 am

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