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Benjamin the rabbit steals the show in lesson about mammals

Children in Kim Wendt’s pre-kindergarten class take turns touching Benjamin the rabbit, held by Gail Laux of the Ohio Bird Sanctuary.

   Benjamin the rabbit was a huge hit in Kim Wendt’s pre-kindergarten class Tuesday morning, more so than the two mice that accompanied him.

   All three were brought to the classroom at Springmill Learning Center by Gail Laux, executive director of the Ohio Bird Sanctuary. Usually, Laux’s message is about owls or other fowl. This time, the lesson was about mammals.

   “Everything I brought today, you can touch,” Laux promised her young audience as she first displayed the pages of a book that featured different animals.

   “Do you know what a mammal is?” she asked.

   Small heads shook back and forth.

   “Mammals are animals that have hair, breathe air and feed their babies with milk,” Laux said. “They can be as big as an elephant or as small as a mouse.

   “Would you like to pet a porcupine?”

   Nooooo! was the unison response.

   “They’re sticky!” one boy said.

   “That’s right. They’re prickly. But their bellies are soft. That’s where their babies get milk,” Laux explained.

   “Now I want to teach you a new word: marsupial. Marsupials carry their babies in a pocket. Can you think of one?”

   There was a soft murmur then one girl, reminded by Wendt of a book they had read recently, answered “A kangaroo.”

   The discussion was lively. Later, Laux shared several small mammal puppets but the real hit of the day was Benjamin the rabbit. He rested quietly in Laux’s hands as each student had an opportunity to stroke his soft fur.

   Laux also brought along two live mice -- Mickey, who is gray, and Minnie, white.

   She carried them around to the children seated on a colorful carpet, cautioning students who wanted to touch them to gently use only one finger. Some touched, some didn’t.

   Before moving to the puppets, Laux briefly stumped her young audience.

   “There’s a mammal who lives in your house and eats your breakfast. Do you know who it is?” she asked.

   Pause.

   “It’s you. You’re a mammal too.”

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