The kindergarteners filled the cafeteria at Pine Grove Elementary School, carrying all manner of containers — some big, some small, some oddly shaped. They found places to sit and waited for parents and other guests to come by and see just what was in those boxes.
The visitors found all kinds of stuffed animals — cats, dogs, bears, an elephant, even a giant pink and green worm. The April 16 event was "Pets on Parade," coordinated by kindergarten teacher Elnora Hill.
This was something Hill has done with her own students for at least the past 15 years, she said. This time, she decided to invite the other eight kindergarten classes, increasing the number of students from perhaps 20 to about 180.
Each child had a registration form filled out containing his or her name, the pet's name, the pet's veterinarian's name, the pet's age, the type of animal and a little story.
"We use this to develop creativity, writing, oral skills and responsibility," Hill said.
Nijah Brady, 5, had the pink and green worm. It was enclosed in a large, blue and purple wagon, complete with reflectors and a license plate. His name was Wiggle Worm, and he was nestled in green Easter basket grass.
"I got Wiggles for Easter," Nijah wrote in her story. "He is my friend. He eats grass."
Tristan Bures, 6, had his pet tucked inside a cardboard pirate ship. It was named Captain Salty. He could sing. Tristan wrote, "I have a bear. He is a pirate. He has a pet bird. His name is Pepper. He fights skeletons. His ship is the Black Pearl."
Brianna Lavalle, 5, brought her pet, Minnie Bunny. His cage was orange and he, too, sat in Easter basket grass. "I have a bunny," Brianna wrote. "His name is Minnie. My bunny is brown. The bunny is here at the festival. The bunny is my friend. The bunny is funny."
Cheyenne Bodtmann, 5, had Jada, a 6-month-old cat, also sitting in Easter grass. "My cat is white with brown spots," she wrote. "It makes a meow sound. Her name is Jada."
Cheyenne had put a little bowl of candy fish inside Jada's cage.
Michele Pitka, 37, is the mother of Adam Pitka, 6, who had his pet, a stuffed pug, in a dog box with toys, food and water bowls, and a pillow for a bed. Adam had chosen the felt pillow cover. It had cats on it.
"I think it's awesome," Michele Pitka said about the pet parade. "I think the kids really enjoyed it. I know my son did." She liked the parent participation it required. Adam told his parents what he wanted, and they helped with the tough stuff that he is too young to do, like cutting. His siblings, Jessica, 7, and Joseph, 9, wanted pet homes, too, so it really became a family undertaking.
Michele Pitka recognized the value of the fun lesson.
"He's learning the things that an animal needs to keep him happy and comfortable," she said. "He also learned the responsibility of making something on his own."