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Hardin County Wonder Pets: hamsters and the hedgehog

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Final story in a series

By Becca Owsley

Similar to Linny the Guinea Pig on television's “Wonder Pets,” Hardin County has a few small fuzzy pets living in classrooms.

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Franklin the panda hamster came to Casey Olive’s fourth-grade science class at Lakewood Elementary  School in Elizabethtown in March. His visit was initiated by a biology unit. The class used Franklin when studying mammals, nocturnal and endothermic animals and life cycles.

This term, Olive created a weekly classroom job called the zookeeper, whose task is to care for Franklin. The students have to apply for all the classroom jobs and all the students applied to be zookeeper.

Olive thinks the class is obsessed with Franklin. They update her every time he moves, gets a drink of water or wakes up. She’ll hear “Ms. Olive, Franklin just moved,” “Ms. Olive, Franklin just got in his wheel” or “Ms. Olive, Franklin just went to the bathroom.”

Many of the students had things to say about their classroom pet.

“If you ask my opinion, I say he’s a fat, furry bundle of joy,” Kate Pierce said. “This guy is cute, everyone wants the job of taking care of this sweetheart.”

Tyler Story thinks Franklin is “the most cute thing ever.”

“He is black and white and chubby,” Tyler said. “If he gets any bigger he’ll get stuck in the tubes.”

Mariah Breckenridge thinks he’s the “best of the best.”

“I think he likes me,” Mariah said.

Olive said the kids run back to the cage and talk to him like they would talk to a baby.

“Hey, Frank, what’s going on buddy?” they’ll ask.

They even stare at him when he’s sleeping, Olive said.

Sometimes Olive lets Franklin roll around the class in his ball. One time she forgot he was rolling around when the class went to physical education class. She went to the office and was working there when someone said, “Hey, your rat’s rolling down the hall.”

By the time she got there Franklin had rolled himself into another classroom, entertaining the crowd.

The student’s favorite story, however, was the day Franklin got nervous and went to the bathroom in Olive’s hand.

“That was super funny for some reason,” Olive said.

The preschool class at North Park Elementary School in Radcliff has a hedgehog named Sonic. The class of 3- and 4-year-olds are very curious about Sonic and talk about him with each other.

Samantha Ryan’s preschool class at Creekside Elementary School in Sonora has two teddy bear hamsters. The mom’s name is Sugar Bug and the baby’s name is Inzy Wenzy and they’ve been in the classroom for a year.

Ryan had a surprise when she brought Sugar Bear home from the pet store. Everything was going great at first but the next night she noticed the hamster was acting funny.

She opened the cage to see 11 little heads popping up out of the bedding. Sugar Bug was a momma.

Ryan called the pet store and was told the babies had to stay with the mom for six weeks. She kept one girl and didn’t bring Sugar and Inzy to the classroom until all the babies had found a good home.

The kids like to watch the hamsters and talk to them in the science center. Ryan gets a lot of feedback from the children through their interaction with the hamsters and she’ll ask higher-level-thinking questions about them.

They also help with behavior. If the kids are having a good week, she will let the hamsters out to roll around in their ball.

When the kids arrive each day they head straight to the cage to see what Sugar and Inzy have been up to. Students beg her to let them out so they can pet them, hold them and take care of them.

She’s never had a student compare them to the “Wonder Pets” but she will ask them what they think the hamsters do when no one is there.

“They have told us they roam the school, bust out of their cage and even take a field trip,” Ryan said. 

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.