The Student News Site of Prospect High School


The Student News Site of Prospect High School


The Student News Site of Prospect High School


Class pets

By Brian Park
Executive In-Depth Editor | 
*Editor’s note – This story ran in the Oct. 12 edition of the Prospector.*

Early in the morning, before students arrived for their classes, something was stirring around in the building. . . and it was dangerous. Slithering stealthily, the snake came closer and closer until it gobbled up its meal, an unsuspecting rat, by knocking its cage on the floor.

The snake, Noah, is actually a red-tailed Columbian boa constrictor that currently resides in science teacher Nick DelBoccio’s biology class, room 329. Noah is not used for biology experiments; however, it has been a class pet living at Prospect for at least 23 years. According to DelBoccio, the name Noah had been chosen because Noah rhymed with boa.

While class pets can be a great addition to a classroom by brightening a student’s day and give students something to look forward to in school, they can also be distracting during class and need to be taken care of. A boa constrictor, a dwarf hamster and a dark-furred rabbit are some of the animals at Prospect that have our school as their home.

In another room, the students were going about their usual routine in chemistry class until Nugget, the class hamster, started acting up. During the day she usually sleeps, but one day she decided to run on her wheel during class, which instantly grabbed the students’ and the teacher’s attention.

Senior Hannah Heimdal decided to bring Nugget the dwarf hamster to class. It was brought into room 313 because she already had a cat at her house and her mom did not like rodents.

“I decided [the name] before I got it; I just thought it was so little, like a little nugget,” Heimdal said.

The dark-furred rabbit lives in room 330. Whether he jumps into students’ backpacks, runs and tosses papers on the floor, or unexpectedly poops in people’s hands when they are holding him, Tucker Bam Jamal Thumper Thunderbunny really has a knack for surprising his caretakers.

All names courtesy of students, this dark-furred rabbit was first called Tucker when he was given to science teacher Alyssa Genitoni from a former student. The breeder where he got it from named it Bam, another former student then named it Jamal, this year’s class added Thumper, and his last name is Thunderbunny.

He was born in Dec. 2006, and Genitoni received him from Prospect graduate Dominica Amidei in Jan. 2007, after the she expressed an interest in bunnies from a farm festival.

After Amidei mentioned she didn’t know if she would be able to keep her bunny, Vicki, Genitoni then told Amidei to bring it to school if she had nowhere to put it. However, something happened, and she was able to keep Vicki. Amidei wanted Genitoni to have a bunny too, so she went out and bought one for her.
While Genitoni takes care of Tucker during the school year, she allows students to take him over the summer if they want to.

The responsibility of taking care of Noah falls on both DelBoccio and biology teacher Tom Froats, which includes feeding, giving it water and finding Noah if he goes missing from his cage.

Snakes are excellent at escaping, so Noah can also be an escapee out of his cage sometimes; in fact, he escaped twice. One time he was just laying behind a lab table, and another time he went after a rabbit in another room. Fortunately, snakes aren’t very active during the daytime and start moving around when the lights go off.
“You can see how many books we have on top of there [his cage] to try to keep him from escaping,” DelBoccio said. “He hasn’t escaped in a long, long time.”

A benefit with having Noah in the classroom is having some students looking forward to class because the pet is there, since they might not like the teaching material, according to DelBoccio.

“Class pets, kids like them a lot,” DelBoccio said. “They kind of give them a sense of responsibility, because a lot of times they’ll feed them and water them, and it kind of becomes like a class mascot, if you will.”

According to Heimdal, Nugget seems to bring the class together. The whole class loves Nugget and thinks she is cute. They pet, play and even try to take care of Nugget.

During the weekends, however, Heimdal feels bad because Nugget is left alone at school by itself.
“And we only get to see it during one period,” Heimdal said. “So it doesn’t get played with a lot.”
Distraction with the pet in the classroom can be a problem, but Heimdal feels that it makes class more fun. For example, students could go play with Nugget if they finish their labs early.
“She’s really soft,” Heimdal said. “And when you play with her, she loves running in your hand, like she crawls up your arm, and she plays with everyone, she never bites; she’s just really playful.”

Tucker gets students excited and adds a lot to the classroom, being one more thing students look forward to in school. He can lead students’ attention away from teaching, but Genitoni thinks the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

“Sometimes, he’ll get a little noisy; if he’s not getting attention he’ll start thumping around his cage, but it’s usually pretty easily fixed,” Genitoni said. “Just the fact that the students love him so much makes a difference.”
The dangerous snake

Students can touch Noah when the teachers are holding them, but the teachers do not allow the students because Noah can always strike out at them. According to science teacher Nick DelBoccio, students are not allowed to feed Noah, mainly because the feeding process is gruesome. Noah feeds off mice and rats, so feeding him can be a bit traumatizing. A teacher throws in the prey, and Noah does the rest.

A hamster for a pet

Hannah got Nugget from PetSmart on Sept. 9 after playing with her friend’s hamster. She loves animals and really wanted a hamster for herself.

“I just got obsessed with it,” Heimdal said. “I wanted a hamster so bad because hers was so friendly.”

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