“Is that a mammal?”


I thought I fancied myself a knowledgeable fan of animals; I read “Ranger Rick” magazines as a kid, I rejoiced in visits to the Zoo Atlanta, and I watched VHS tapes of National Geographic’s “Really Wild Animals” relentlessly.

So when I started to compile an animal image encyclopedia for the 4th graders to use in their printmaking project, I thought I was well prepared—I thought I was MORE than prepared. I mean… my image file was so well fortified it included animals like the kinkajou and the hoatzin.

Do you know what a hoatzin is?

I was positive I would be ready when the kids were told they could choose any animals they wanted to draw for their project.

At least, I thought I was.

One student in particular came up to me and asked, “Do you have any pictures of a binturong?”

“A what?”

And that wasn’t the end of it…

“Okay, Ms. Chamberlain, what about a nautilus?”

“Does that live in the ocean?”

I ended up adding more than 10 new animals, all of whom I had never even heard:











I have been inspired to continue expanding my animal file instead of resting on knowledge from my childhood. The file now contains 334 species of animals. I owe its constant growth and my continued interest to one student and his remarkable expertise.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Nina Chamberlain serves Trinity School as an Art Teacher.

8 thoughts on ““Is that a mammal?”

  1. Hmmm. My animal file includes: dog, cat, camel, cow. . . You are amazing! I loved that the children inspire you and that you have a “thicker file” now – thanks to their inspiration!

  2. Ginny Perkinson

    Not your usual list of animals is a crossword puzzler’s delight. Thanks for adding to my list – must look up a Quokka! You are definitely an inspiration to your students….

  3. Nina, I wish I had you for an art teacher! Your enthusiasm must be contagious for those children, and I’d bet your file inspired them to find just the right animal for their project.

    The temptation for most would likely be to encourage the child to choose from the huge file already created, but you took the path with more work, and in doing so, taught us all a valuable lesson.

  4. Nina, It has been a pleasure to see how personalizing this project has created more excitement for the students and this tradition in the ULD art class of learning how to carve a printing plate and create a series of prints. Thank you for sharing your research as well as selecting images that the students will feel successful at drawing. On a personal note, it was cool to find out that it is now legal to adopt a “sugar glider.” Now, would my cat allow me to adopt one?

  5. Great Job Nina! Those children and your school are so fortunate to have you as a teacher. You are making fond memories of their elementary school years. Keep up the good work!

  6. I love the fact that they are learning art and other subjects at the same time! I wish you had been my teacher!

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