What do you get when you combine 2 friendly skunks plus a man who cares deeply for animal rights and 4 classes of excited Third Grade students and 4 unsure teachers? You get a mix of laughter, learning and long lasting friendship across the ocean!
How did this friendship begin? The classes met Mr Dale and his menagerie of Therapy ani
mals last September. The adventure started as a way for the students to see that animals could be more than just in a zoo, ranch, farm or pet. Third Graders learn about research via projects in their class, library and computer lab. While working as a Learning Technology Coach, I discovered Stoosh & Skittles on their Success for Skunks page. I was facinated that skunks could be used in therapy. I struck up a conversation with the skunks and our friendship began. (Ok, I know Dale did the talking/writing but it was so much fun!) I approached our librarian, Dominque Corpus and the 4 teachers (Mrs. Amstead and Mrs Ballard at Hall Elementary and Mrs Benevaides and Mrs Sanders at Green Elementary), they were a wee bit unsure but thought they would give it a try. I thought this would be a great way to start their research study on animalslasses had already been shown how the research process begins.The students had to select an animal and it could not be one they were familiar with! After all, teaching how to do research can be rather tedious and stressful.
So, we set up skype visits and the the students loved it. Normally, their interest in learning about research is limited. They took notes, listened intently and were completely 100% engaged. Their science journals were filled with information that they could use for their research . It was amazing! Their brains went into over drive!! They wrote down everything they could remember about the experience! they then wanted to find out where he lived in England, how far it was from the school and if there were people here that used animals like Mr Dale! It was great to see how they took their new found knowledge and used it across their studies, My favourite was during a Math lesson on time and hours passed. each group had to come up with a question for the class to solve. Here is Matthew’s: Mr Dale has an appointment at the hospital with Stoosh & Skittles at 10 AM. If it takes him 4.5 hours to feed all of his animals, what time will he need to begin? (Not only did Matthew pay attention to the visit but he was using his Math skills too!) Another student, Beth Ann wrote, Mr Dale has 65 animals at his home. He feeds 17 in the morning and the rest at night. In the morning, he takes him 5 hours to feed the animals but in the evening it takes him 3.75 hours to complete the task. if he starts at 6PM, how many hours a day does he spend feeding the animals? The students shared the questions they developed with the other Third Grade classes in order to prepare for the state tests! They did similar exercises in Language Arts and in Science and Social Studies!
Since that first Skype exchange, they have exchanged letters, questions,gifts, with Stoosh and Skittles and Mr Dale. They have read about ferrets, millipedes, blue-tongue skinks,boa constrictor, chinchilla,axolotls, and skunks. At Christmas, the Hall students wrote letters to Dale directly and he was very touched! He had not ever had 40 letters just for him. The students expressed their love and concern for what he does!
As the year passed, each visit on Skype became more focused. The first visit was an introduction to animal therapy and Stoosh and Skittles! The second visit was a look at what his menagerie looks like and how he takes care of them! The third visit was a look at all of the animals up close and personal! the fourth and final visit was to be last Tuesday! The students were sad because word from Critterish Allsorts was that Mr Dale was going on a trip to Costa Rica to visit the rainforest. the students were so sad that they were not going to be able to see Mr Dale and Stoosh and Skilltles before school was out. Little did they know that Mr. Dale was coming to Texas!!!
Tuesday morning, bright and early, I met Mr Dale and Kat and we went to Hall Elementary! Mrs a stead and Mrs Ballard had their students in the gym. They knew they were being talked to but did not know it was Mr Dale! We walked in and they was a hush as they tried to figure out how they knew him! “Do we know you?”, to You are from Stoosh & Skittles!!!”,”to how did you get here? The next 65 minutes flew by. Questions, laughs and smiles bigger than Texas! The students were excited, Mr Dale was beaming like a proud parent and I was tickled pink that it went so well! We did not want it to end.
We packed up his items and ventured over to Greene Elementary to Mrs.Sanders and Mrs Benavides’ Classes. They were equally excited to see him. There were as many questions, laughs and grins before it was time for Mr Dale to go to the Airport.
So,what did we learn from this exchange: animals can teach you many things, cross curriculum activities are the best, traveling to Costa Rica from London is always better via Houston and friends are fun to have from all over the world and learning doesn’t have to be only thru books, learning happens anywhere, anyplace with technology and without!
We will do it again for sure with next year!