When Vanessa Hogarth began working at Bushnell Elementary School this school year, she brought a teaching sidekick with her. Waylon, the bearded dragon was adopted through PetSmart’s Pets in the Classroom grant program to be in a classroom environment. After spending a year with his new mom at Hope Academy of West Michigan, “Waylon bid adieu to city life and began his adventures with our littlest students.” says Hogarth.
Providing an Opportunity for Stability and Learning
Bushnell Elementary is home to kindergarten and first grade students before they move on to Cherry Creek Elementary for second through fifth grade. Students at Bushnell, especially those beginning kindergarten, can start the school year with a bit of apprehension, anxiety, and even fear. Having an animal in the building who can visit classrooms and be seen as kids walk by his habitat can give students a sense of order, comfort, and happiness throughout the school year.
Waylon can be a staple in the lives of some students who deal with instability, whenever it occurs. “Studies show that children can greatly benefit from exposure to and involvement with caring for pets in the learning environment.” says Hogarth. Bushnell students strive to be safe, respectful, and responsible as part of their daily pledge. Those who show these qualities are able to interact more directly with Waylon, providing teaching experiences whenever possible.
It’s easy to see the students at Bushnell Elementary love Waylon!
The bearded dragon got his name from a friend of Hogarth at her previous place of employment. It’s a fun, unique name which is easily remembered. Waylon has been a hit at Bushnell with students since his arrival. His home in the building can be seen through a window, allowing students to walk by and check on him as they travel through the building.
Hogarth had a lot of questions to answer at the beginning of the school year. Students have learned what he eats, how old he is, and most import that he’s unable to fly or breath fire. As kids check in on Waylon, they’re able to observe him sleeping and eating. Feeding time is usually a hit, especially when live crickets are on the menu. When molting occurs, the students also like to see this process and have the opportunity to hold his shed skin.
Many of the kids also enjoy the opportunity to hold and pet Waylon. Dianna Meijer and Gaye Urban also help with Waylon’s care. “Surprisingly it’s some of the adults in the building who show the most apprehension in touching him.” comments Hogarth. But she didn’t name names.
Kids can also buy a lunch date with Waylon, through good behavior. Tickets are earned for good behavior. A certain number of tickets can be used to have lunch with and a photo taken with the most popular reptile in school. Hogarth said students love posing with Waylon and even dressing him up. Thankfully, he doesn’t mind all of the attention.
At only 18 months of age, Waylon has become a superstar for kids at Bushnell Elementary School. They’re eager to see what he’s up to as part of their daily routine. He even has his own Instagram page! Thanks to school pets like Waylon, younger aged kids are able to find some comfort and even stability when life is a little apprehensive.
Photos compliments of Mrs. Hogarth and used with permission.