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Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Some days I really have to work to find something to write about. Today is one of those days. I guess I'll fill you in on the latest and greatest at school.

Yesterday we were classifying animals at school. First graders are very interesting to watch do this. I draw a huge chart on the board, we discuss various categories and then I let the kids tape pictures up all over the board. Wild, crazy, and fun!

They would do things like hold up a trout, and say, "Is this an amphibian or a fish?" We would discuss scales and living in water full time, etc. and they would make the appropriate placement. They figured out the differences between insects and arachnids and crustaceans. They did an excellent job on this assignment. They even guessed that bats were mammals because they have fur.

Eventually we came to the elephant. 5 years of doing this activity and never once has this been an issue. Mammal.....easy. But this year a great debate broke out in class. Many of my students are first borns or only children.....thus thinking they are always right (sorry, but it's true). My students became engaged in a heated argument about whether elephants are reptiles or mammals. They were not giving in. No way!

It was a pretty evenly divided event, and I just sat back and watched them debate. I was interested to see their logic at work. One student says, "It's a reptile. It is dry and leathery like the dinosaurs." Another student says, "It's a mammal because it has hair." There was lots of yelling about this point because many of my students have never been to the zoo and did not know they had hair. Having had enough, I said, "yes, they do have hair" thinking that would end the conversation. However, I did not plan on one of my student's exceptional reasoning skills. He said, "But in that Dr. Seuss book, Horton hatches the egg, he's sitting on an egg. Elephants lay eggs. That makes them reptiles."

That's when I lost my composure. I had to sit down at my table to laugh. This student firmly believed that because he had seen a picture of an elephant sitting on an egg in a Dr. Seuss book that it was absolutely true. Then I tried to imagine elephants building nests and sitting on eggs and just laughed and laughed. I finally composed myself enough to explain that Dr. Seuss wrote fiction. And that was a borrowed egg anyway, not Horton's. I managed to confess the students that an elephant was a mammal. But only after they saw me google it for proof.

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