We are lucky to be head-starting two Blanding’s turtle hatchlings once again this year. And like students, the year three hatchlings are very different from Bowser and Yertle, and Kame and Kachua. One is overly active, climbing on the log and rocks like a mountain climber scaling the Alps. The other turtle likes to hang out on the heater, floating there like a small child who is holding onto the dock while practicing their flutter kicks. Their tails seem much longer than the past hatchlings. They seem to be getting use to the noise of 22 students in the classroom and are responding to my talking to them when it is quiet in the room. But the one thing that is very different is that we have had them for ten days and they are not good eaters.
This year, when we received the hatchlings, we also received “turtle jello” that Bryan Windmiller made. Turtle jello consists of unsweetened gelatin, tuna fish, greens, turtle pellets and sweet potatoes. The thought was that this mixture would be more appealing to young turtles. Not our turtles, they swam away from it like it was a predator. I initially had a lot of water in the tank, but was told to try a very small amount of water. Still no luck. I decided to try the straight pellets. Turtle 1038, the mountain climbing turtle, swan to the direct opposite side of the tank. Turtle 1029 was mildly interested, but not so to eat.
As days went on, I became more anxious that they weren’t eating. I know in the wild, the hatchlings don’t eat until spring, but this experience was different than what I had experienced before. I had a couple of days that previous hatchlings had not eaten but never a week. On Thursday afternoon, after the students had left, I tried putting a few pellets in the big aquarium and much to my surprise, turtle 1029 went after a pellet. I went home that night pretty happy that one of the two tried eating.
On Friday, I received an e-mail from Bryan about “my fussy eaters”. In addition to trying the “crawfish smelly jelly”, Bryan said I could try:
“Another possible direction is to make up your own batch of turtle jello with something more appetizing than the tuna that I used. I would try canned salmon, maybe some chopped up earthworms, and if that still doesn’t get them (and yoiu don’t mind) some chopped up frozen baby mice. Just make up as per the recipe that I attached to the protocols.”
I decided to take the turtles home and try to do a little more experimenting with Juvenile Aquatic Turtle Diet that I had good experience with Kame. So, after a walk and a talk about robotics, the turtles loaded were loaded up and came with me to get some more coaxing from me to eat.
So, how is the art of feeding turtles like teaching my 2012 – 2013 students? Well for the first thing, for the first time since Bowser and Yertle arrived in 2010, I have a class of brand new students. They all have very distinct personalities. I need to try some different tricks to teach them since they are different students than the last two years. The one thing that I really want them to do is to “own the learning.” But, like feeding these fussy eaters, it will be a process to get to that point.
So, gently, I coax both my students and my turtles. Little by little, I see both becoming more comfortable with me. They both have their own distinct styles. I have to put behind me how my past turtles ate and my past students learned. On Friday, I declared it to be “FUF” short for Finish Up Friday. There were four assignments I wanted to get done heading into next week. After the students came in on Friday morning, I asked them what they thought “FUF” stood for. One student thought it meant “fun”. I responded that “There’s no time for fun in fifth grade.” One boy’s eyes lit up and said, “Fifth grade is a lot of fun.” My heart melted a bit. Later that day, another student came up and showed me what he and his partner had done regarding an air, soil and water contamination project. On their own, they had taken an iPad and wrote their notes on Evernote, completely independent. They were already starting to own their learning. While I sat correcting their multiplication fact quizzes on Thursday night, I was struck at the rapid improvement in a week’s time. Clearly these new students take learning pretty seriously. I admire their work ethic and will work even harder to be the best teacher I can be for them.
So Saturday came and I tried talking and encouraging the hatchlings to eat. 1029 clearly is now eating pellets. 1038 still is not interested in the pellets, despite climbing up the rocks and the floating log in their “home” tank. While buying the juvenile turtle formula for them, I did spy the frozen mice. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but if it needs to happen, I will do it. Just like I will do with my new students. I will do whatever I have to do to engage them fully in their learning. New turtles and new students. It’s going to be a fun year!
Post Script: On Sunday, I tried a new “trick” to try and feed the turtles. I noticed that when feeding 1029 in the tank, the turtle liked to hang onto the floating plants to grab the food. So, I put both turtles into a small feeding tank, added some floating green plants and added a few pellets. Suddenly, my not so interested in eating turtle began to snap at the pellets. Finally success! 1038 also seemed to enjoy some of the turtle diet as well. As I sit down to plan for the upcoming week, I look forward to trying out some new tricks with my new students as well.