, Muskogee, OK

May 6, 2013

Students research, open imaginary pet store

— By Cathy Spaulding

Phoenix Staff Writer

Puppies, turtles and all sorts of live and stuffed critters filled Becky Roff’s classroom.

Her first-graders at Fort Gibson’s Early Learning Center had turned it into a pet emporium last week. And the kids kept busy working it.

 “We run very fast,” said Jake Spencer, manager of the store, called A Kid’s Best Friend. “People come in here and we look for them. We didn’t sell anything. We just pretend to sell things.”

Students operated this pretend pet store as a way to learn about research, Roff said.

“We started an enrichment cluster with the question, ‘How can we use research to build knowledge,’” she said.

The students then researched what went into running a pet store and caring for pets.

“We wanted them to do higher thinking skills,” Roff said. “They can’t just regurgitate information. They have to apply what they learned. They have to share it in some way and speak to it.”

Roff said students had worked on the project for about two weeks.

After deciding to do a pet store, the first logical step was to visit one. Roff said they visited Petco in Muskogee.

“And it was an amazing field trip,” she said.

“Then, we brought stuffed animals to help with the research,” Roff said, adding that students researched the animal their stuffed animal represented.

“We wrote a rough draft of our project, typed it out,” she said. “We actually had them fill out job applications. I hired a manager (Jake) and we conducted job interviews.”

First-grader Jacie Webb became a floor clerk.

“We make sure that when people come in the door, we walk around and see what they need, help them find stuff and answer their questions,” Jacie said.

Students also researched such things as using math to choose a pet. They learned what it takes to care for different pets.

“You need to love your pets. Love them all the time,” Ethan Kirkland said. “Every day, give them food and water, too. Let them run around outside.”

The students opened A Kid’s Best Friend for their parents Thursday and for other ELC students Friday morning. One parent brought live puppies, a snake and other animals after getting permission from school officials, Roff said.

A Kid’s Best Friend was part of the Early Learning Center’s career-oriented enrichment program. She said one class focused on agriculture. A first-grade class did a zoo. A kindergarten class did a veterinary clinic.

Roff believes her students learned about research, though they might not notice it.

“One of my kids yesterday said, ‘Mrs. Roff, it doesn’t feel like we went to school this week,” she said.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or