My World Tuesday: Lennie's Friends

I began the school year telling my students about the turtles that next on Topsail Island and about the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital there that cares for sea turtles injured, most frequently, by boat propellers and cruel or careless fishermen.

I showed my students a brief homemade video of a loggerhead hatchling making its way into the ocean as caring onlookers watched and kept him safe from crabs, seagulls, and other predators. My students understood that they are like the turles in many ways. Random cruelty or unfairness can harm or handicap any of us, to be sure. Still, there are kind people willing to help us swim--but we ultimately swim on our own. When we step forward, we are on our own.

Lennie, the Ambassador of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital

I made a donation to the turtle hospital, and the blind Kemp's Ridley Lennie, who is an ambassador for the sea turtle hospital, became our classroom mascot. Beaten blind by a fishermen who had caught him up in his nets, Lennie was rescued by a fisherman who had brought him to the hospital where he will live out his days. I hung his photo and our certificate of adoption in my classroom. The stuffed animal version of Lennie became a classmate, and the kids took turns from day to day keeping him on their desks.

At Chrismas, my daughter and I visited Topsail, and I brought back some seashell turtles for my classes. I challenged them to take turns caring for these little knicknacks, which started out as Lennies but took on differnt names. Each day the student caring for the little thing brought him back to class, I would add a sticker to our sticker chart.

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The real Lennie's avatar for one of my classes has the street name Lenito. He has had his head blued back on once. Two very patient, gentle girls put him together after some other student in another class knocked him onto the floor by accident. 

Eventually, I would exchange these stickers for dollars and send a donation to the turtle hospital. Thus, my students could do a good thing for these animals at the same time they learned to cooperate with each other and to deal with the basic ideas that life is fragile and that we sometimes need a little extra glue to keep ourselves going. (Indeed, we have added flippers and restored heads to necks over the past several weeks. Life merrily goes on.)

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This avatar belongs to a different class. Though they have transported him in a range of luxuriously appointed cardboard and wooden boxes, he lost a flipper. Recently we found a shell that seemed adequate for the job, and a couple of would-be surgeons made the repair.

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One class learned a tough lesson when the student whose turn it was to watch Lennie lost him, broke him, or something. Bottom line: Lennie was gone. These kids were annoyed with their classmate for knocking them out of the game. They were also irked they weren't making a contribution to the real Lennie and his buddies recovering on Topsail.

So my daughter went through her shells for potential turtle parts, and I cobbled together this unlikely creation to get that class back the game. Within a few days, they had me getting my glue gun out again for some emergency surgery. The girl who had him was proud to have him and showed him to a friend, who dropped him on his head. So it goes. The uninitiated need to be brougth in slowly so they can learn to be careful.

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This is the third Lennie's replacement. A strand of dried hot glue remains as the only sign of his operation.  The head restoration went well.
Recently, my classes received a beautiful letter from the turtle hospital telling them about the good work the folks there do and the importance of Lennie and the essential role of caring people. My kids were pretty pumped up to hear from these busy folks, and they're working on their replies.

We brainstormed the details that should go in our letters, and then I asked my students to look over those details and see if a main idea emerged from them--a general statement or theme. "When you get kicked, you gotta get back up again," Kenny said. "Lennie's not poor--don't say that. He got friends," said Yomaira. Kyanna, the mediator and moderator put it together: "So. When you get knocked down, you can get back up again if you have friends."

Life is reading and writing. If you can do these well, you can live well. That's where we started in September. That's where we are now. Like Lennie, we "got friends."

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  1. Such a terrific program!! Now I see just why you enjoy my turtle shots!! What a great service you do, not just for the turtles, but for your students as well. Some of the most important things we learn in life are not necessarily in books! Have a wonderful day, Sandy!


  2. I would love to be in your class! You are a terrific teacher . . . and it sure makes me lonesome for my old classrooms.

  3. I love reading your stories about the kids and Lennie. The photos are great and the lessons you teach are invaluable. Thanks Sandy.

  4. I love all the versions of Lennie! He must be really inspiring the students. Keep up the good work :)

  5. Anonymous1:15 PM

    What a wonderful metaphor Lennie is for the kids!

  6. What great work you do with your kids, Sandy. Your love for the world around you will help take them far.

  7. What an inspired way to get the kids involved and a great analogy of the turtles trek and them.

  8. Not Joe Klein. It won't let me change that option.

  9. With all the random, intended and /or accidental cruelty going on in this world it is educators such as yourself and the people who guided the real turtle into the sea who make life worthwhile. Thanks for sharing the video full of excited and encouraging voices. :)

  10. Hi Sandy; I think you are the born teacher. It is a great and important program to teach children gentleness and kindness to all living things.

  11. Great post, Sandy. You are helping Lennie create a legacy - kids who'll grow into lovable, caring, responsible adults.

  12. You sound like such a marvelous teacher!

  13. So cute!
    Sounds like an exciting class which is so lucky to have you as a teacher.
    Yes I worry about climate change, turtles and especially manatees which are always in danger because of motor boats.
    This is why I like it when they have those fan run boats sweeping through the marshes.
    They look like so much fun.

  14. Your children got wonderful lessons, I like it the way you got them involved in the project. Great creations with the shells.

  15. Wonderful program. It is important that students become part of such activity in their young age itself for better tomorrow.

  16. What a terrific program. The way you have engaged your students and the way they have responded is inspiring. Lennie has certainly helped a lot of people -- and a lot of turtles.

  17. Great program! The lesson learnt is so profound! I enjoyed reading your post.

  18. A wonderful way to teach. One must always have friends.

  19. Lovely lessons you are teaching your students. It is so terrible how one fisherman beat Lennie blind. I can't understand why humans can be so evil toward animals and vulnerable human beings.

  20. I am always impressed with your rapport with your students. :) The turtles are great!


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