In the Classroom: The Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers peering into Dragon's cage

Life and Death

The Grasshoppers went through some really wonderful and new experiences this summer. We helped to care for another classroom’s pet hamster named Dragon. It was exciting, heartwarming, fun, entertaining and became the topic of a study of rodents.
What was not so fun, was having Dragon unexpectedly die.
Death is not an easy topic to talk about even to adults. With children it can be especially tricky when it comes to such unfamiliar and difficult concepts.
Often the loss of a pet is the first experience for a child with death or dying. The finality of death can be misinterpreted by the very young so it was important to the teachers to use the words “dead” and “died” rather than “gone to sleep” or “passed away”.
Children are prone to magical thinking and can interpret these euphemisms to mean death isn’t forever. In being direct and appropriately forthcoming about the death of our pet; it allowed us to have some open conversations about our feelings. We talked as much or little as needed, drew pictures about the things we loved about Dragon, and printed pictures to remember him by.
Some children take this very lightly and others need more time and support.
News about our dead pet was communicated the same day to parents so they could continue supporting their child through this event in the home as well. Many families have honored traditions and beliefs about death and the idea of the soul; while we do not endorse any one concept of spirituality at school; talking about those beliefs can be soothing.
We will continue to remember Dragon as the fantastic pet he was and to talk about our emotions for as long as children are interested.