Little creatures, no matter what size or shape they are, should be treated with care and respect. With proper care these little creatures can be a valuable resource for any classroom. Consider and make students aware of these simple points before introducing any animals into the classroom.
- Most little creatures are harmless; however, some may sting or bite.
- Always remember to leave alone any animal that may be dangerous.
- Keep insects and small bugs for a maximum of three days.
- Return creatures to where they were found.
- Clean animal homes each day.
- Provide fresh food and water each day.
- Keep little creatures in a safe, cool, area.
- Don’t mix mini-beasts, they may eat each other.
- Treat all little creatures with care and respect.
Mice can be kept in a glass aquarium with a wire mesh lid or a special mouse cage. Cover the floor with shredded recycled paper, which is good for bedding, nesting and shelter. Change this often as it can get quite smelly. Special mouse or rodent food can be bought from pet stores. Water-based foods like carrots, apples and other fruits and vegetables are important supplements to their diet. Water is best supplied in drip bottles clipped to the side of the cage as open dishes can be easily contaminated. Mice need to exercise and play so items like a running wheel or toys from pet shops should be provided. A simple cardboard tube provides the mice with a tunnel to run through, sleep in, hide in or even shred for a nest. Don’t overcrowd the cage and keep it away from draughts and direct sunlight.
Other classroom creatures to consider are fish, birds, guinea pigs, frogs, tadpoles or small reptiles (lizards, gecko).
Each student or small groups of students can fill a yoghurt (or larger) container with about 3 – 4 cm of bran flakes or wheat bran. Label the containers with names and a date. Select several mealworm larva (available from bait stores or contact the Gould League) to put in the container. Add a small piece of raw potato, apple or banana peel (replace this when necessary). No water is needed as mealworms get the moisture they need from their food. Seal the containers with a well-ventilated lid and place in a dark part of the classroom. Change the bran occasionally to prevent mould and foul smells. Observe as the larvae change into beetles (about 1 month).
Cut the top off a large plastic drink bottle (2 L). Half fill a smaller plastic drink bottle (600 mL – 1 L) with water and replace the lid. Stand the smaller bottle inside the larger one. This will keep the wormery cool and stop it from falling over. In the space between the drink bottles repeat layers of dead leaves, peat and sand, ending with a layer of peat. Spray with water to make the soil damp. Add a few earthworms. Make a cylinder cover for the wormery out of card, wrapped and taped so that it can slide over the bottles easily and keep the wormery dark and cool. When the worms have burrowed, cover with the cylinder and place in a safe, sheltered area. Ensure the soil in always damp but not soaked. Check for changes. Don’t allow the wormery to get warm-worms thrive in dark, cool conditions.
Snailery (garden snails)
When collecting snails, also gather some of the plants or clumps of grass from where the snails are found. Use a clean glass aquarium or plastic tank with a well ventilated lid. Add some soil to the floor along with some food like fresh leaves, small grass clumps, chopped apple or even a piece of bread. Keep the tank clean by removing any food before it rots. A piece of chalk placed in the tank can be eaten by the snails to keep their shell healthy and strong. Lightly spray the tank to keep the snails home moist. If it dries out the snails will stay in their shells. A small container of water buried level in the soil can be added but snails get most of their moisture from their food.
Containers in general need to be at least twice the width and five times as long as the creature to be suitable. Plastic jars, bottles, glass aquariums and plastic food containers can easily be converted into ‘bug’ houses. Ensure lids are well ventilated or have fine screen-like material (e.g. nylon stockings, gauze, fine-wire netting) so the bugs can’t escape.
Containers must also be rinsed of any soap or chemical residue which may harm the animals. Most insects, bugs or mini-beasts are comfortable with some soil, rocks, sticks, fresh leaves, water (if necessary) or crumpled paper towels to hide in. Some little creatures suited to this habitat include most insects like grasshoppers, butterflies, caterpillars, praying mantids, beetles or slaters.