Classroom or zoo? Teacher brings science to life with pets

Kent County

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — Inside East Kentwood science teacher Carl Warfield’s class, books take a backseat to ball pythons.

“When you say ‘snakes in Kentwood’ they usually go ‘I know where that’s at’ or ‘I know whose room that’s in,’” Warfield said.

“I’ve always had a really big love for snakes. I mean, I was a bit scared when I came here first, but I’ve gotten a lot more used to it,” said Luca, a senior at East Kentwood High School.

Student holds tarantula outside of aquarium
A student handles a large spider inside East Kentwood science teacher Carl Warfield’s classroom. (Sept. 18, 2019)

Students in Warfield’s class better get comfortable because they’re studying, learning and working among snakes, spiders and lizards.

“We do a lot of research. And I’ve been in this classroom for about two years, so I’m a leader here. So we take care of everything in this classroom,” said East Kentwood senior Taylor.

“I love science, but the hands-on piece with the kids is just something that… It’s the classroom I always wanted to have,” said Warfield.

Warfield has been teaching for 23 years. He started bringing live animals into his classroom about 20 years ago. It started with two animals; now there are dozens.

“I did not envision this growing to this, but it was just a way to say, ‘Hey, science is alive,’” Warfield explained.

Feeding and caring for the animals falls to the students who know they have something special inside room 216.

“I got to take him home and raise him as my own. I got to hand feed him, hand train him. So I’m kinda like his mom, everyone calls me,” East Kentwood senior Madison said of her cockatoo.

Warfield knows that hands-on learning works, and the district is on board, supporting him.

“It makes it easy to teach when you have something alive and you can say this is why this happens,” he said.

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