Second-grade students in Erin Rehnblom’s Otsego Elementary School class have a new pet, but not just any pet.
They now have a pet elephant.
Not in Otsego, but in Africa. And the children are using their new pet to learn about helping others.
The adoption story starts with Rehnblom’s uncle, Pat Sergott, who is working in Kenya, Africa. He recently visited an elephant orphanage, where on Jan. 26 he came across a baby elephant with a near-tragic story. Lamoyian was rescued from a man-made well and taken to the orphanage in Kenya.
Sergott decided to adopt Lamoyian because he thought it was an amazing and unusual gift for his niece’s second-grade class. He in turn offered the elephant to the students to adopt.
Rehnblom said the adoption not only helps the elephant, but also is teaching the students the importance of helping others.
“It is difficult for 7- and 8-year-olds to not be able to have a tangible gift; this is a great lesson,” she said.
She said the orphanage works hard to provide the best care for the elephants. Their handlers bottle feed the babies every three hours and sleep with them.
“Our adoption is not only exciting for my students, but it is helping to provide for the elephants,” said Rehnblom. “One of my students even asked if we could take a field trip to Africa and meet Lamoyian.”
Rehnblom said the class is able to track the elephant’s progress.
“We will get monthly diary entries from his handler, we will know what he is doing and how he is doing and we are also brainstorming other ways that we can help Lamoyian,” she said.
“I am totally inspired by the thought and uniqueness of this class pet,” Rehnblom said.
She said she had piranhas in her classroom the last two years but lost both this fall, and “I noticed how much the class missed having a pet. This project allows my students to have a global connection; they are able to have a personal connection to people and animals that live in Africa. The discussion and learning that have already begun is amazing.”
What could have been a tragedy is turning in to a wonderful story.
“This is the best class pet a teacher could have,” she said. “No clean up, no smell and you don’t have to come in and feed them on the weekends.”
One of her students put it this way: “Piranhas are cool … elephants are cooler!”