News / Science & Technology

    Animals Are Teachers in This Virginia Classroom

    Animals Become Teachers in the Classroomi
    X
    January 29, 2016 11:32 PM
    Most high school science classes rely heavily on books. But as part of an animal science program in Arlington, Virginia, students get actual hands-on experience learning how to care for animals. A number of the students have gone on to careers such as veterinarians and zookeepers. As we hear from VOA's Deborah Block, the animal laboratory has an unusual collection of creatures.
    Deborah Block

    "Hi," announces a friendly white cockatoo as you enter the animal science laboratory at the only Career Center in Arlington, Virginia.

    Besides talking birds, there are about 50 species of animals here, including head-butting goats and a giant tortoise that doesn't mind hanging out with chickens. An influx of high school students comes to learn from them.

    It's "so cute," says Elleny Alemu as she holds a contented cinnamon-colored rabbit in her arms like a baby. "I'm going to be getting one of these soon."

    But Miguel Zambrano doesn't feel the same way about Snickers, a temperamental, brown mini-horse to whom he's feeding hay in hopes she will let him brush her out.

    "She gets mad if you just sometimes don't pay attention to her," he said. "I do not want a horse. It's going to be way too much work."

    This year, 70 students are taking part in the yearlong animal science program that includes both hands-on experience and classes. The students receive high school credits, but more importantly, they get the chance to learn what it's like to work with animals.

    Not always pleasant

    Sydney Miller, who wants to be a veterinary technician, is taking a rabbit for a stroll to give it exercise. She guides the animal — wearing a collar and tethered to a leash, like a dog — through aisles bordered by cages that include rats, salamanders and a hedgehog.

    "I love animals," Miller said. "I wanted to learn more about different kinds of animals and get hands-on experience."

    That experience includes the not-so-fun task of cleaning the rabbit's cage.

    "Rabbits are very dirty, actually," she explained. "I have to clean his litter box and bedding every day."

    Animal science teacher Cindy Schall said there are many U.S. high school animal science programs, but what makes this one unique is the wide variety of creatures — including exotic sugar gliders, little nocturnal marsupials with big eyes that are native to Australia and Indonesia.

    Every two weeks, the students take turns caring for a different animal, from cats to scorpions.

    "Part of working with them is what we call hand taming," Schall said. "So they're supposed to be holding them for at least 10 minutes."

    But what if a student is nervous about handling a tarantula or a snake?

    Schall helps by holding the animal herself first, encouraging the student to ease into it by touching the creature, and then holding it. After that, "they're usually fine with the animal," she said.

    Emotional bonds

    The students also have to weigh the animals and check them for health problems.

    Sarah Maller is using a small flashlight to look into the eyes of a brush-tailed rodent called a degu.

    "I have to see if there are any little eyelashes or anything in the way, or scratches, or cataracts to see if there's any cloudiness," she explained.

    Kimberly Rodriquez said she learns something new about each animal, as she feeds a turtle a tiny dead mouse in a tank with small fish. She was surprised to discover this diamondback terrapin is a "carnivore and he gets along with all the fish."

    The students rely on guidance from lab assistant Rebecca Brumbaugh, who said that, like people, animals have minds of their own.

    "They have their good days and their bad days," she said.

    Megan Johnson, who hopes to become a vet, has figured out how to get along with the chinchilla she's petting.

    "The animals have different personalities and they connect with different humans," she said.

    As Ruben Stann weighs a golden-colored albino horned frog, he said he feels an emotional bond with animals.

    "You kind of have to make a little connection,” he said. “For me, it's very relaxing."

    And that connection to the natural world is sometimes hard for the students to find in mostly urban Northern Virginia.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora