Why I'm a Member
“We have a whole zoo here!” exclaims Cori Coleman, a science teacher at Harrison Elementary in Lexington, Kentucky. “A newt, a fire-bellied toad, a turtle, a little green lizard, two gerbils, and a box of Madagascar hissing cockroaches—the kids love those! The teachers...not so much.” Starting in kindergarten, Coleman uses her menagerie to teach observation skills. In first grade, students turn to talk of habitats and “classification skills,” using the animals to tell the differences between mammals and reptiles. It’s an awesome learning opportunity, especially in this very urban, Title 1 school where students don’t have a lot of opportunity to stomp through the woods.
“My students definitely are at a disadvantage in life experiences,” Harrison noted. But animal upkeep isn’t cheap and, like most teachers, Harrison has been emptying her own wallet to buy classroom supplies. She’s very thankful to be the recipient of a recent classroom grant from the Fayette County Education Association, which awarded eight grants in 2011 — 2012 to members who could demonstrate how their purchases would improve student learning. “I have fifth graders who spend their recess caring for animals and cleaning tanks. That’s what they love to do!”