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Classroom pets play key role in school’s success story

Sarasota School of the Arts and Sciences' animals bring a sense of calm to the classroom alongside a unique learning opportunity.


The wondrous Cleo is a bearded dragon who teaches seventh grade students the responsibilities of caring for a reptile while incorporating the science of aquaculture.
The wondrous Cleo is a bearded dragon who teaches seventh grade students the responsibilities of caring for a reptile while incorporating the science of aquaculture.
Photo by Dariela Delgado
  • Sarasota
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Teacher’s pet takes a literal meaning at Sarasota School of the Arts and Sciences. From dogs to rats, this public charter middle school is embracing its third school year of having animals in the classroom.

“We’ve been doing this for two years and it’s been working out very well,” said Sarasota School of the Arts and Sciences Principal Tara Tahmosh. “We did our research and ended up writing a policy that we’ve taken from different organizations and modified for our school.”

Sarasota School of the Arts and Sciences makes sure that the pets are involved in the learning of the students.

Cleo is a bearded dragon that dedicates long hours of teaching seventh grade students on the responsibilities of caring for a reptile while incorporating the science of aquaculture.

“The students love feeding Cleo crickets. I have classroom jobs and I have an application out for whoever wants to feed her. She eats vegetables as well, so someone will have to chop her vegetables,” said seventh grade life science teacher Hollie Nelsen. “We do aquaponics. Some of the food that we grow from it, feeds Cleo.”

Dexter is a Yorkshire Terrier and weighs two and a half pounds and is an expert at calming students.
Photo by Dariela Delgado

Dexter is a distinguished professor and highly respected at Sarasota School of the Arts for teaching the longest. Dexter is a Yorkshire Terrier and weighs two and a half pounds and is an expert at calming students.

“The kids really like having him here. It calms a lot of students,” said sixth grade Earth science teacher Brittany Lear. “I had a student last year who would have explosive outbursts and I let the student hold the dog for class and it calmed the student. It helped the whole class that we didn’t have these outbursts.”

Daniel Izquiredo holds the distinguished Dexter.
Photo by Dariela Delgado

Lear’s students collectively said that having Dexter in the class is awesome and gives them something to look forward to.

Algernon and Geomernon are two sisters who help seventh and eighth grade social science teacher and gifted specialist Trevor Bliss. Algernon and Geomernon are rescue rats.

Electra English holds Algernon on her back.
Photo by Dariela Delgado

“A student told me to get a rat since they are more trainable and better pets,” said Bliss. “The students really like the rats. With my population of kids, it’s nice for them to have the comfort of an animal.”

Bliss explains that having a class pet takes a certain amount of commitment and classroom management. “I find it very exciting and having a pet in the classroom brings something to the classroom and makes everyone happy,” said eighth grader Elektra English.

Tahmosh adds that this is something that she feels passionate about, “anything that helps the kids and my teachers. I’m a teacher of teachers.”

 

author

Dariela Delgado

Dariela is the Sarasota community reporter for the Observer. After graduating from Florida State University with degrees in English and education, she’s been a writer and an editor for publications in Tallahassee and Sarasota. In her free time she gives violin lessons.

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