A rabbit and a tortoise rode together through the gates of the Lew Muckle Elementary School to help with a special presentation to the primary grade students. The animals were recruited to give students a close up look at their features and how to care for them as pets.
St. Croix Director of Agriculture for the Virgin Islands Department of Education (VIDOE) Velda Hendricks drove with the animals and then carried them in boxes for her prop in a Week of the Young Child presentation on Thursday, April 19. Hendricks explained how she acquired the rabbit from a VIDOE employee and the turtle from a friend to bring the animals to the students.
She told the students in grades K-2 about the characteristics of the animals before a question and answer period. “This bunny can reproduce little ones in 21 days, the gestation period,” she said, while holding the animal by the scruff. “You should never hold a rabbit by the ear but by the scruff or hind legs.”
The students looked amazed at the long-eared animal held by a flabby area at the top of the neck in one hand and with the other hand at the lower rear side. As you pick up a rabbit by the scruff of its neck, you need to put your other hand under the rabbit for support. Mother rabbits carry their bunnies by the scruff of the neck until they get older when they need the extra support under their body to avoid causing them pain.
Holding the turtle gently in her hands, she said “This red-footed or cheery head tortoise from Northern South America can live up to 50 years.” The students then moved forward and circled the animals placed in two separate boxes. They were ready to handle and pet them while the rabbit chewed on grass and the tortoise fed on pieces of fruits and vegetables.
The agriculture director then questioned the students on the lessons taught. They answered each question correctly. Hendricks also asked who had pets. It was unanimous. Everyone has a dog, a cat or a bird, and one kindergarten girl has a bunny for a pet. Hendricks expressed great satisfaction with the students’ interest and knowledge, and their willingness to take good care of pets.