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Pair of bearded dragons inspires Carvajal classes

Charzard Bearded DragonA pair of Pokémon-themed reptiles is stealing hearts and making big impacts in the classrooms at Carvajal Elementary. 


Charzard, the school's first bearded dragon, now 11 months old, was acquired as a positive behavior reward for Danielle Salgado's fifth grade class last year.


She made them work for him.


“We discussed what kind of a pet we wanted,” Salgado said. “We discussed fish and rodents. We did some research and I suggested a bearded dragon because it’s an easier reptile to take care of. They worked really hard, we got permission from district to get him, and we got him in March of last year.”


She had no idea all the ways he would impact her classroom. 


“I saw empathy really rise in my classroom not only toward him but toward each other,” Salgado said. “He’s great at keeping volume levels down because he has very sensitive hearing and when I say, ‘guys, it’s a little too loud for Charzard,’ they know they need to quiet down.”


Last year one of her students learned Charzard was from Australia, and placed a book about Australia near his enclosure, so he’d have something familiar to read about. Another used Charzard for emotional support to help him calm down in times of stress. 


The reptile eats a diet of crickets and various greens but gets other produce as treats. Last year, as part of a science fair project, students predicted and tested which fruits and vegetables he would like best. 


“We gave him a buffet to see what he would like,” Salgado said. “We discovered that he really likes mango and strawberries but he’s not so keen on red peppers or tomatoes.”


When it came time to find jobs in the classroom, eight students ended up applying for and getting jobs to take care of him in roles including chef, exercise manager, and bather. Charzard enjoys taking walks on a leash to the playground at recess and playing in a portable playpen during indoor recess times.


Charzard and classCharzard has become a loyal reading buddy for students who are nervous about reading out loud in front of the classroom or even a partner, as they are comfortable practicing reading fluency with the lizard. He doesn’t judge. Now Eevee, the new bearded dragon in second grade, is another story, and frequently gives side eye to passersby.


Eevee, an adult bearded dragon, was donated to the school over the summer after Charzard’s initial success. Since bearded dragons are solitary (and territorial), she lives in second grade. 


Both classes will readily tell you: the first rule of taking care of bearded dragons is to always wash your hands after you touch them.


The lessons they are learning, Salgado says, are more than she ever could have imagined when her class advocated for a pet last year. Those students, now sixth graders at Rhodes, frequently come by to visit, and their younger siblings on the Carvajal campus keep them updated. 


“I’ll walk down the halls and even the little kindergarteners will ask ‘How’s Charzard?’ or come and look at him or he’ll go and visit different classrooms as a reward for behavior,” Salgado said. “It’s been really lovely to see how the community has embraced him.”


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