Step inside Chapin’s Lower School Science room and you’ll notice it’s full of more than just eager students. “My goal in the Science Room has been to continually add more living creatures,” shared Lower School Science Teacher Joanne Hwang. “Since Chapin is a city school, I think it’s so important that our students are given opportunities to build connections with animals.”
The science room was already home to a family of stick bugs, an aquarium of small fish, as well as two colorful Betta fish named Courage and Compassion (inspired by Chapin’s theme of the year, “Listen with Compassion, Act with Courage”); but Ms. Hwang and Science Associate Teacher Liana Rosabal-Bushnell were eager to add a mammal to the mix. “I think, as humans, we connect with mammals on a deeper level,” Ms. Hwang noted. “A guinea pig seemed like the perfect fit!”
On a stormy day this fall, the two determined teachers embarked on their quest. When they discovered that the pet shop near Chapin did not have any guinea pigs in stock, they ventured downtown to a shop on 57th Street… and that’s when “fate” stepped in. “The moment we held him we knew he was the perfect guinea pig for Chapin!” Ms. Hwang shared with a smile. He was calm and gentle, with a sweet disposition – the perfect addition to the Lower School.
The teachers named him Roosevelt, brought him back to Chapin, and set up a comfortable home for him in a corner of the Science Room. After spending a few quiet days getting acclimated to his new environment, Roosevelt was ready to meet his new Lower School friends! One by one, each class gathered quietly on the rug and made their introductions. “He scurried around the circle, using the girls’ knees as a tunnel,” the teachers recalled with laughter. In no time at all, Roosevelt had warmed up to his new classmates and was happy to indulge in all the cuddles and attention they were eager to provide.
“The students just adore Roosevelt!” explained Ms. Hwang. “They stop by in the mornings before class starts to visit with him. It’s the first thing many of them want to do when they get here.”
Not only do the students give Roosevelt lots of love and attention, they also take part in his care, from bringing him tasty vegetables to filling his home with hay (which aids his digestion). “There’s a social/emotional component, but also an ownership component to all of this,” the teachers added.
Though he’s only been at Chapin for a few weeks, the little guinea pig has become a treasured member of the Lower School. “We’ve really emphasized with the students that he belongs to all of us,” the teacher notes. “Roosevelt is so loved!”
Roosevelt Fun Facts:
Origin: Native New Yorker, with ancestry in Peru
Favorite Food: Lettuce, and for an occasional treat, celery and carrots
Preferred Communication Method: Squeaks and purrs
Browse photos of Roosevelt below: