One of the least difficult programs I do is my weekly Friday visit to Saratoga STEM Academy during Connect - the hour in the middle of the day where the middle school students eat during the first half, and find something to do the second half. For the animal lovers the visit from HAWS is one of their favorite things, and I get steady stream of kids stopping by to find out what the animal of the week is.
It's an easy program because I really don't have to do anything other than supervise the kids with the animals, answer questions they have about HAWS and the animal I brought, and listen to them talk about their own animals. While there isn't a specific lesson being given my hope is that the exposure and opportunity to listen and be listened to will have a positive influence on them.
Typically the hour is very noisy and very chaotic. Students are coming and going, talking to each other loudly, yelling out the door to a friend who is passing by, and off in a corner carrying on conversations having nothing to do with me or the animal.
A few Fridays ago I brought Hulk, our Red-earred slider that is currently residing at HAWS and looking for a home. As turtles go Hulk is a bit on the shy side. He doesn't like loud noises and, while tolerant of handling, takes a while to come out of his shell -- literally.
As beautiful of a shell as Hulk has, the kids really wanted to see the rest of him. And when I explained that he didn't like a noisy environment they all shushed each other, formed a ring around Hulk and waited. It was a long wait. Kids still were coming and going, but as they came in they were instructed by their fellow students to keep quiet. And as they were going they carefully tip toed out of the room.
I thought for sure the kids would get sick of the wait after a few minutes and go back to being their typical rowdy lunch-time selves. But they really surprised me in that they kept very quiet for over 10 minutes, and as Hulk very slowly cautiously moved his head out they whispered in excitement that he was doing so. And after a few minutes when he moved his legs out they maintained their silence respectfully.
Animals have a wonderful effect on people - even turtles on middle schoolers.