With its hard shell and reserved demeanor, a turtle might seem like one tough customer. But a teacher in Plymouth, Mich., is showing her class just how vulnerable and amazing the versatile creature can be.
Marilyn Eggers, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and 3rd grade teacher at the 600-student Allen Elementary School, built an 80-square-foot turtle- rehabilitation tank in her classroom that’s now home to 77 injured turtles.
Ms. Eggers has been rescuing them for nearly 10 years and has two habitats in her home. Turtles are often hurt when crossing roads to mate or to find new homes when their habitat is destroyed by suburban creep.
Many suffer from shell injuries, which Ms. Eggers repairs using epoxy and fiberglass cloth. Such patches can take up to a year to heal, and with so many turtles in her ward, she decided to take her patients into the classroom.
Earlier this fall, she applied to the Plymouth-Canton Educational Excellence Foundation and received a $2,000 grant.
She and her husband built the turtle habitat using wood and Plexiglas. It offers a 360-degree view of turtle life and contains a 140-gallon pond, an incubation area, and native plant life.
Through the project, the students have learned all about turtles. Students have business cards stating what type of turtle specialists they are. Some focused on nutrition, others on husbandry, and still others learned about environment and differences between turtle species.
“It gives them a chance to observe something in a closed system they’d never see in the wild,” said Ms. Eggers. “I think it gives them a certain sense of self-esteem, too, because they now each specialize in something most people don’t know much about.”
A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 2002 edition of Education Week