Harrison County students go 'wild' over new classmates - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Harrison County students go 'wild' over new classmates

Lucky the chameleon Lucky the chameleon
Katrina the bearded dragon Katrina the bearded dragon

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) – It's always a zoo at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School in Harrison County, especially when you have a slithering snake on campus.

"He likes to move," said fifth grader Elizabeth Mink, as she held up "Cornelius" the corn snake. "He likes to hibernate when he gets out of his cage.  He got out of his cage one time and one of our teachers found him."

Cornelius has plenty of 'wild' friends around. There are three bearded dragons who love to go for a walk on a leash, nine finches, four bunnies, a variety of fish, and a Savannah monitor lizard. They are all part of the school's Angels for Animals program.

"Our children learn about the animals themselves and their relationship with animals," said Principal Elizabeth Fortenberry. "It carries over to the rest of their life.  It teaches them responsibility and it teaches them to care for the environment and to take care of the good things that God gave us."

"He will jump up and hiss and put his spikes out," a student explained as he played with a hedgehog.

The children take turns feeding the animals, cleaning their cages, and tending to their needs.  For instance, several students are taking care of "Lucky" the chameleon, who was found malnourished and with a burn on its back.

"It helps you love something," said fifth grader Cody Peranich. "If you really care for it, you'll care for other things in your life."

"It teaches responsibility and it helps the world," said fifth grader Allison Kaletsch.

In return, the creatures help make the classroom lessons come to life.  And they're the perfect pals to have around during those down days.

"I know I have a meltdown once in awhile. They'll have a meltdown and there's a soft furry friend that takes up the sadness that they feel," said Fortenberry.  "Instead of being distracting, it enriches their life."

Teddy the puppy is being trained by the students to serve as a pet therapy service animal. They plan to take him to nursing homes to work with the residents. You can see all the animals during a school open house on Saturday, March 6. 

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