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Through the viewfinder: Classroom pet helps class learn about science

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Vidalia Lower Elementary  second grade teacher Tori Marling takes out her classroom pet, a bearded dragon by the name of Rexy, during science class.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Vidalia Lower Elementary second grade teacher Tori Marling takes out her classroom pet, a bearded dragon by the name of Rexy, during science class.

Editor’s Note: The Viewfinder is a weekly feature in which a photographer tells a story through the lens of a camera.

A yellow, bearded and scaly teacher sometimes gives lessons to second-grade students at Vidalia Lower Elementary School.

That teacher — a bearded dragon named Rexy — helps students understand animal life cycles and math.

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Second graders Ja’Kayla Lee, left, and Tracey Nguyen watch Rexy climb onto Kylie Pahnka’s shoulder during science class. “See how her tail is a different color from the rest of her body,” Marling said to the class. “That’s because Rexy’s skin is starting to shed.”
Brittney Lohmiller /
The Natchez Democrat — Second graders Ja’Kayla Lee, left, and Tracey Nguyen watch Rexy climb onto Kylie Pahnka’s shoulder during science class. “See how her tail is a different color from the rest of her body,” Marling said to the class. “That’s because Rexy’s skin is starting to shed.”

The students and their actual teacher, Victoria Marling, examined Rexy’s shedding skin last week for a look at how the once 10-centimer long dragon has grown.

Picking Rexy up off the floor, Marling showed the students the lizard’s peeling skin.

“See how her tail is a different color from the rest of her body,” Marling said to the class. “That’s because Rexy’s skin is starting to shed since she’s growing.”

Marling purchased Rexy in September through a grant from Pets in the Classroom at PetSmart.

Marling originally applied for a hamster, but changed her mind after seeing the hamster running loose in PetSmart.

“I wasn’t a reptile person,” she said. “But I wanted something that I could take out of the cage without worrying that it was going to run off and still be able to interact with the kids.”

Marling said having Rexy in the classroom helps the children learn how to care for the lizard. Marling also incorporates Rexy into lessons.

“I got Rexy because I wanted to teach the kids responsibility and to help them follow rules,” Marling said. “And Rexy also helps with math.

“I have the kids measure her on the tenth of every month, so we can see how much she’s grown and to give them practice with measuring.”

Students wearing long sleeves stretched out their arms during Rexy’s lesson hoping the lizard would sit and let them run their fingers down the small rough bumps on her back.

More often than not, Rexy will continue to climb beyond the students’ arms.

“Don’t worry, Tristan,” Marling said as she moved Rexy from Tristan McCoy’s hood. “She just wants to get a better view of everyone.”

Marling said she has noticed a change in her second graders since they met Rexy.

“They know they can’t yell, because it scares Rexy and they know they have to help take care of her,” Marling said. “What really surprised me was how much Rexy has calmed down the class and helped them focus in school.”