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  • Last modified 964 days ago (Jan. 28, 2016)

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Fictional hamster inspires MES students

Staff writer

A fictional hamster named Humphrey seems to have caused quite a squeak at Marion Elementary School recently.

The entire school has been reading about the exploits of a fuzzy protagonist in “The World According to Humphrey” by Betty G. Birney as part of the One School, One Book program.

Each class was given a stuffed toy version of Humphrey.

Librarian Lori Kirkpatrick said the school takes part in the program to support reading.

“We do the One School, One Book program to encourage the love of reading school-wide,” she said. “Reading the same book, K-5, gives kids a sense of community, especially when they can talk about what’s happening in the story together.

The book has been well-received by students, Kirkpatrick said.

“Kids come up to me in the hall and ask me where my Humphrey book is if I’m not carrying mine, and they all tell me about their favorite parts in the story.”

Humphrey is not an average hamster — he narrates his own story. His talent proved fine fodder for teachers to incorporate into lesson plans and school activities.

Humphrey has been used to help teach vocabulary words, learn about character traits, facilitate teamwork, inspire drawings, draft hamster cage blue prints, and write.

First-grade teacher Ginger Becker has asked students to do “book mapping” that entails an examination of problems, solutions, characters, setting, and new vocabulary words in each chapter.

She said Humphrey also takes part in the activity and has an “85 percent on his spelling.”

Michelle Flaming’s first graders learned how to draw the many faces of Humphrey. Some were purple, brown, and orange. Some were yellow and with pink ears and paws. Others were black outlines.

First graders also received help from their fourth-grade book buddies when they designed and drew hamster cages. Many had flushing toilets, hamster wheels, slides and tubs, but one of the more chic cages also included a swinging chair, cotton candy bar, pool, and disco ball.

Fifth-grade instructor Sarah Tolessa said that in the story Humphrey has a cage with a lock that doesn’t lock.

“Our Humphrey, who we keep in a fishbowl, escapes regularly and the kids have to find him in the room, like elf on the shelf,” Tolessa said. “The kids asked to hide him when we leave the room so peers can find him.”

Third-graders and fourth-graders have been creating new adventures for Humphrey. Humphrey goes home with a different student each night.

Students were asked to journal about Humphrey’s escapades from his point of view.

Among his many child-created exploits Humphrey was scared by hungry cats and dogs, bothered by students’ siblings, wowed by modern video games, and amused while ice skating.

He also watched movies, rocked a drum set, rode a hover board, drank chocolate milk, ate pizza, tried his luck at the lottery, and always did his homework.

Kirkpatrick said MES Parent Advisory Council (PAC) helped support the program by purchasing books and prizes. Each week there were drawings for different books in the Humphrey series.

A collection for Caring Hands Humane Society in Newton was also started as part of the program as a way to help teach compassion for animals.

Last modified Jan. 28, 2016

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