May 18, 1995 in Washington Voices

Pocket Pets Add Life To Brentwood Classroom

Kara Briggs Staff writer
 

Chameleons, horn frogs and tarantulas - oh my, teacher Georganne Myhre used to say.

Not any more. The Brentwood Elementary second-grade teacher and her 30 students now share their classroom with a pet-shop case full of pocket pets.

But who would want a creepie crawlie in their pocket? Retired teacher Norris Barber.

“Mr. Barber, are you carrying a purse?” Myhre asked about the nylon belt bag. “I’ve never seen you carry a purse. Does it go with your outfit?”

“There are holes in it,” secondgrader Neal Shaw cried as he pointed at Barber’s bag.

Barber, the genius behind the pets, unzipped the “purse” and gently withdrew a young python.

Barber braced the 4-pound python in his hands. The beautiful cream and brown checked snake looked out at the children, then hid its face behind Barber’s arm.

The children murmured with excitement. No one screamed.

Four years ago, Barber’s health forced him to retire from classroom teaching at Shiloh Hill Elementary.

But his heart didn’t want to leave. And his home grown menagerie of pets gave him a ticket back.

“This has been my 30-year dream,” said Barber, looking at his pocket pet collection.

Last summer Barber bought from a pet store a case designed to keep small reptiles and mice. He modified it for use in a classroom.

Then he called his old teaching buddy Myhre and announced his idea.

“He said, ‘Guess what I got: a tarantula, a frog and chameleon,”’ she said. “I was in shock. I don’t like spiders. I wondered how I was supposed to make the kids think they’re wonderful.”

She didn’t have to work very hard. The kids loved them.

Second-grader McKinzie Strait has a horn frog at home.

Classmate Christopher Schlechter has seven tree frogs. And classmate Michael Bonvad wanted and received two lizards for Christmas.

Barber spends three hours every Thursday teaching the kids about pets.

At lunch he lets the second-graders choose which of the pets - the tarantula, the frog or the chameleon - they want to have lunch with. Then the pet sits on the table with the children.

Once the frog wandered into a little girl’s empty lunch bag and then leaped off the table.

Parents say their children talk more about the classroom pets than anything else about second grade.

“I kind of prefer the amphibians and snakes myself,” Barber said. “I like them because they don’t take a lot of care.”

But Barber, who brought one of his lop-eared English rabbits to class, likes other animals, too.

Last week in the class two fourth-grade boys brought their own green ribbon snake to school. That snake will join the pocket pets next school year.

As the boys were talking, Myhre, who rarely touches the pets, petted the snake with her finger.

One of the boys slipped the snake onto her hand and wound the snake gently around her fingers.

“I never thought I’d be holding him like this,” Myhrie said with a look of disgust creeping onto her face. “I’ve come a long way, baby.”

Mead students solve problems

Students from Mead High School and Mead Junior High School participated in the state Future Problem Solving State Tournament at Port Townsend on April 27.

The Mead students were among 272 other students from around the state who competed.

From Mead High School: Krishna Smith, Amy Corman, Gwen Singleton and Erica Salnick were on one team. Travis Logan competed in the individual tournament.

From Mead Junior High School: Nathan Pennock, Matt Lowe, Andy Stone and Adam Salnick served on one team. Angela Bell, Adam Christiansen, Andrea McMaster and Elysia Hanna were on another.

Teachers Marshall Mah and Roger Barenz coached the teams.

Lakeside fun run, track meet

Lakeside High School is holding its second annual youth and adult fun run and track meet on June 3.

The three-mile fun run will take place between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. The track meet, divided into age categories, will begin at 10 a.m.

Field events include shot put, running long jumps, adult javelin and youth softball throw. Track events begin at noon.

Registration for the fun run is $10 including a T-shirt or $5 without a T-shirt. Registration for both the fun run and the track and field events is also $10 with a T-shirt and $5 without.

For more information, call April during the work day at 466-1360 or Jim Pettet at 466-2624 in the evenings.

NC grad earns scholarship

Philip Haugen, who graduated from North Central High School in 1981, received a $600 scholarship to apply to his senior-year tuition at Eastern Washington University.

The money comes from the Josephine Fitzgerald Memorial Scholarship established for Native American students.

MEMO: Education Notebook is a regular feature of the North Side Voice. If you have news about an interesting program or activity at a North Side school or about the achievements of North Side students, teachers or school staff, please let us know. Write: Education Notebook, North Side Voice, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. Call: 459-5533. Fax: 459-5482.

Education Notebook is a regular feature of the North Side Voice. If you have news about an interesting program or activity at a North Side school or about the achievements of North Side students, teachers or school staff, please let us know. Write: Education Notebook, North Side Voice, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. Call: 459-5533. Fax: 459-5482.

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