About Us

Welcome to our Critter Camp blog.
Windsor Elementary 4th Grade and the Animal Rescue League of Iowa are partnering to create "Critter Camp". The 4th grade classrooms will be caring for small animals from the ARL that are in need of foster care until they are ready for adoption. This blog will share about our foster critters' progress and their search for their forever home.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Top 10 reasons birds make great pets!

If you've been thinking of adopting a pet but don't want something as common or furry as a dog, cat, or rabbit, birds might be the perfect fit for you! Once you read these facts about pet birds you might just have to swing by Windsor Critter Camp to meet a few great candidates!
1. Birds are smart!
They are able to learn and are naturally inquisitive. Plus, they are able to bond with their owners. 
2. They're pretty easy to care for. 
When compared to taking a dog outside or scooping cat litter, many people prefer the convenience of simply changing out the liner of a cage once daily. 
3. They can be trained. 
It is fairly easy to teach a bird new things with some patience and a little research. 
4. They are naturally clean. 
Birds are pretty hygienic and groom themselves often. A nail trim and a water shower every so often does the trick. 
5. Birds are social. 
Birds love to bond with their owners and love company. 
6. They share their food. 
Ok, well you can share your food. Birds can eat some kinds of fruits and veggies in addition to their regular diet. 
7. They don't require a ton of space. 
Small bird species, like parakeets, don't require giant cages or large homes. 
8. Most apartments allow birds. 
Some don't even count them as "pets"!
9. Birds are beautiful. 
Bright feathers and comical behaviors make a pet bird fun to watch. 
10. They live a long time. 
Birds can leave many years depending on the species, which gives you lots of years to bond with and love your pet. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

We Love Rats!

Our dear friends Caramel and Popcorn are moving on to their next adventure. The energetic rat girls have grown big and strong and outgrew their cage at Critter Camp. They have so much energy that they were getting a little bored in there! So the ARL is taking care of them again, where they will live in comfort while waiting to be adopted by their forever family. 

In the meantime, Mrs. Nelson's class has started fostering a new dynamic duo. Shadow and Cowmella are little girls who are very sweet and great with people! They would make a great pet for an older child to care for and love. 


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Meet Furball!

The second graders in Mrs. Heemskerk's class have a new foster pet! The female angora rabbit has been named Furball by her new Critter Camp counselors. She is about 10 months old and is already used to being held and petted. She is good with older children and is doing great with the second graders. Help Furball find her forever home! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More answers to your burning Critter Camp questions!

Here's more from the fourth graders' interview with another Critter Camp teacher:

 How long do you think you will still have Critter Camp?  
We hope to have it for a long time.  As long as teachers and our principal keep supporting the program.

 How many total animals do you care for?  
It depends, sometimes we have more and sometimes just a few, it all depends on what the ARL needs help with and what we have space for.  At one time last year we had a mom and 6 baby bunnies in one room, another bunny, 2 rats and 2 guinea pigs.  

Where do you have the animals - how do you find the space?  
The animals live in our classrooms.  Each teacher gets to choose what type of animals they will foster and then they also need to decide how much space they have before they choose.  Bunnies take up more space, and are a bit more work, so we usually only have one teacher that takes bunnies.  Most of the pets have a small cage so it is pretty easy to make room for them.  We do want to make sure they are happy, so sometimes we give up some of our free space so they can have more room.  

 Do you have jobs for the students? 
Each teacher does it differently, but yes the students take most of the responsibility.  Especially our older students.  The 4 graders helped clean the cages, play with and socialize the animals and feed them.  In Ms. Johnson's class we had 2-3 "Critter Camp Counselors" each day who were in charge of care for the pet that day.

Do teachers and students care for the animals?  
Yes both!

Do you take turns feeding the animals?  
It depends on the teacher, some teachers feed them early in the morning before the students come, so they are ready to play and hang out with their friends as soon as they arrive.  Others have the students feed them.

What foods do the animals eat?
They eat special food for whatever animal they are, just like dogs and cats have dog food and cat food.  Our critters have special food for them.  Most of them also love to eat fruits and veggies!

How do you play with the animals? (toys, tunnels, things to run around)  
It depends on the animals, but our rats are super fun! They love to climb on and be carried around by the students.  They like to hang out in pockets and hoods of your sweatshirts.  They like to climb on ropes and the side of their cages too.  Guinea pigs like tunnels and just to be held or let run around on the floor. For our bunnies we like to make toys for them.  They love to climb on boxes run through tunnels, jump around, play with toys, and some like to be held.  Most bunnies just like to play and lie down by you.  Our bunnies really like toilet paper tubes that we cut into toys, and other fun creations out of cardboard that our students make.  Our birds like to hang out on their perches and some will ring the bells or play with the hanging toys.H

More students learn about the ARL

Some fourth grade students in the Southeast Polk school district were writing a newspaper about the Animal Rescue League. They were visited by some ARL staff members. While learning about the animals, they heard about critter camp and wanted to interview our teachers about it. Here are some of the great questions they came up with and some of our answers. 
1) How did you get started with Critter Camp or know that you wanted to do something like this?
Ms. Johnson started Critter Camp last year. I used to visit the rabbits she fostered over my lunch hour. Both my cats are adopted from the ARL so I had to help! Then when Hope, a rabbit with 6 newborn bunnies, arrived, we started working as a team with a couple other teachers. 

2) How do you feel when one of the animals gets adopted?
Usually very excited! We get to meet with the potential adopters which makes me feel comfortable letting the animal go. Mrs. Heemskerk and I took care of degus over the summer, which were our first pets by ourselves so we were a little sad to see the little guys go! The hardest one was when Hope and her babies were adopted in pairs by 3 amazing families. All of us were in tears--we had these animals for over three months and raised the babies! But we were sent pictures from their new homes and they all look wonderful!

3) How much money do you need to take care of the animals? Where do you get the money to take care of them?
We are really lucky that the ARL has a small animal specialist who secures donated veggies, extra towels, and other supplies for us. However, there are things we choose to spend our own money on, like new toys, treats, and the litter we like the most. It's not very expensive when we get so much help from the ARL, especially with pens and cages.  Ms. Johnson and I had to construct a baby rabbit escape proof enclosure last year--we had to buy a lot of wire fencing because somehow the bunnies were squeezing through the pen and hiding in her cupboards!

4) How many years has the Critter Camp been going?
This is our 2nd year. 

5) How many types of animals do you have?
We have had rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, birds, and degus. 

6) How many total animals do you care for?
We currently have 4 birds, 4 rats, a guinea pig, and we just had our rabbit adopted. Our total adoptions have been 12 rabbits, 6 rats, 3 degus, and 3 guinea pigs. 

We hope we get to see the finished project when the students finish it! Good luck guys!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A home for Snowball

Our wonderful foster rabbit was adopted! Her new family is so excited to bring her home. The second graders in Mrs. Heemskerk's class will miss Snowball and her wonderful personality, but they understand that she has a forever home now. Congratulations Snowball!!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Caramel and Popcorn

When Mrs. Nelson and the third graders come into the classroom in the morning, they are often surprised to see their two foster rats eagerly awaiting their arrival! Caramel, who was named for the rats' coloring, and Popcorn, who only jumps around rather than walking, have great personalities. We knew rats were some of the most social small pets, but it's awesome to see it firsthand. Caramel and Popcorn would do well in any family now that they have had a few weeks of experience with kids. Third graders Kaylee, Layla, and Joseph love snuggling--er, we mean socializing--
While the kids are learning a ton about caring for animals and having fun with the rat girls, they know what their goal is: making sure Caramel and Popcorn are adoptable and ready for a forever home. They are doing an awesome job! It might help that Mrs. Nelson knows what potential rat owners are looking for: she has 2 rats herself, Critter Camp alumni Edith and Agnes.

Contact Cindy Gerke (cgerke@arl-Iowa.org) with the ARL to schedule a visit with Caramel and Popcorn or any of our other critters!

Can't adopt but want to help? Invite friends to like Windsor Elementary Critter Camp's Facebook page!