by Danielle Wagner
CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) An eastern Iowa classroom continues to grow, but not in terms of students.
A fourth grade classroom at Grant Wood Elementary in Cedar Rapids grew to 34 this year, but only 26 are students. The others are live animals who call the classroom home.
Jenifer Carstensen's fourth grade class is "crawling" with creatures. From a rhinoceros iguana to frogs, a turtle and birds.
"Well, it kinda feels like a zoo around me, but most of the time I sit down and focus on my work," said student Maddison Edwards.
Teacher Jenifer Carstensen said the animals are an important classroom tool.
"I want the kids to understand it doesn't always have to be about what in the textbook. there are so many things we can learn about our environment. what's in our environment."
The students are soaking up the hands-on knowledge.
"The frogs can suck up water through their skin because they got holes in their skin," said student Ricardo Rojas.
Most of the animals were donated by people associated with Grant Wood Elementary. The students rotate through a job chart taking care of the eight animals.
"They learn responsibility. They learn to question. They learn to wonder about different things. Obviously they learn how to care about something other than themselves," said Carstensen.
"We learn when it's time to feed them so they don't go hungry and starve. It's like zoo to us and we're trying to take really good care of them," said student Hannah Wade.
Carstensen said it's great to see the students interacting with the animals in a positive way. All the animals are named after a literary character the students learn about in class.
Reporter: Danielle Wagner