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!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Critter Camp 2014-2015!!!

Windsor Elementary is very excited to be continuing our Foster program with the Animal Rescue League of Iowa this school year. We have expanded into other grade levels and included more animals. Last year we fostered 11 rabbits, 3 guinea pigs, and 2 rats, all of whom were adopted by wonderful forever families. Over the summer we fostered an additional 4 rats and 3 degus. That's 23 animals who have been adopted!!!

This year we are starting off with even more knowledge of the care our foster pets require and a lot of support from our administration and the ARL. We would like to extend a special thank you to Mr. Nichols for supporting Critter Camp (and even wrangling bunnies last year!). We also want to thank Ms. Johnson for being instrumental in getting the program up and running, and all her continuing guidance. Lastly, THANK YOU Cindy, Michelle, Leah, Cecily, and everyone at the ARL for trusting Windsor students and staff to help you in your mission to provide animals with loving homes. We are honored to be a part of it. 

Drumroll, please...This year's first critter campers are:

Mr. Cuddles, Winter, Banana, and Lime, parakeets with personality, Mr. Israel's 4th grade

Caramel and Popcorn, outgoing rat girls, Mrs. Nelson's 3rd grade

Chester and Wilson, sweet rat boys, Mrs. Bolte's 3rd grade

Snowball, the friendliest rabbit we've ever met, Mrs. Heemskerk's 2nd grade

Sparkle Butterscotch, the guinea pig as cute as the name, Ms. Taylor's 1st grade

Thanks for continuing to support Windsor Critter Camp and the Animal Rescue League!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rat girls looking for a home!

Our 4 little ladies are growing and learning every day and ready for their forever homes!!!

Edith and Agnes are staying with Mrs. Nelson until school starts, so they will be getting lots of valuable socialization, which is important for families wanting to enjoy a small pet.  One of the best things about this pair is how clean they like to keep their cage.  Mrs. Nelson put shavings on the bottom of their cage, and now the girls are close to "potty trained"--meaning, they typically eat up on their shelves and only go to the bathroom in the shavings.  The shavings are easy to scoop out and replace, which has made for a nice smelling cage!  (Our degus never quite figured this out...)  They LOVE yogurt and also eat lettuce, apples, and carrots to supplement their diet of rat food.  They are so sweet and like to cuddle sometimes too.  They can be adopted at any time and would love to meet you.

Sophia Grace and Rosie were pretty shy in the beginning, as many foster pets can be, but they have been making some great progress this week.  Both girls like to be pet on their backs, and Sophia Grace is learning that being held is actually not so bad!  Today they had a yogurt treat for the first time.  Mrs. Wilken pet Sophia Grace for long time while she nibbled on her treat.  Rosie kept to herself, but got some pets in too. They LOVE lettuce.  Sophia Grace will occasionally steal Rosie's--but Rosie always gets revenge later!  They spent a little time in their rat ball but couldn't quite figure out how to make it roll.  They'll work on it!  These girls are also liking the shavings on the bottom of the cage and that has been keeping their cage cleaner every day.  This week they are hanging out in the office with Ms. Johnson, Ms. Sunny, Mrs. Heemskerk, Mrs. Wilken, and Ms. Mone while summer school wraps up.  Next week the girls will be going back to the ARL in order to get lots of attention from the great volunteers there.  An empty school is no fun for these girls!  If you would like to visit them before they go back to the ARL to await their forever home, please contact Cindy Gerke via email at cgerke@arl-iowa.org.  They need a loving home to call their own!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

End of the Year Visit to the ARL

Sorry for the delay in sharing about this wonderful day!  At the end of the regular school year the Windsor Critter Camp 4th Graders took a trip to the Animal Rescue League to learn more about the amazing organization we have spent all year helping.  It was such a great experience, and the students had a wonderful time.  We got to tour the kennels, the small animal rooms, make posters about fostering, walk through the horse barns, and even play with a dog!  The ARL also had a really cool cake made for us with pictures of some of our foster animals.  Thank you so much ARL for helping us wrap up the school year, and for teaching us so much more than we could have learned from any book.  We look forward to continuing the awesome foster project next year!

Making posters to share about fostering.

The cool cake they made for us

Checking out the cat adoption area.

Touring the small animal area.

Walking through the dog rooms.

Learning more about the ARL facilities.

Learning about how to approach a dog we don't know.