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Groundbreaking act

Officials oversee the beginning steps of what will become a garden and tortoise habitat at the Community Day School.

April 16, 2008|By Jeremy Oberstein

BURBANK — School and city officials broke ground Monday on the future site of a garden and tortoise habitat at the Community Day School, which they said will be a boon for students’ self-confidence and the city.

Kobe, an African tortoise that officials said is between 3 and 5 years old, will be the sole resident in the $20,000 project to bring a garden and habitat to the school.

“Kids here might not have anything to hold on to,” said James Dobkowski, a science teacher at the school for at-risk seventh- through 12th-graders. “Kobe will be part of an opportunity for them to get to know an animal hands-on and take part in its upbringing.”

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Plans for the project, funded by the Leadership Class, include a small grass area to be accompanied by flowers, fruits and vegetables, which students and staff members will plant, Principal Christine Krohn said.

“We want to make it stuff Kobe can eat; he’s an eating machine,” she said. “This is great for the kids. Any time you bring something in, especially animals, they feel they have control over it, they get respect from it. It makes them feel better. Those little things can make a difference in kids’ lives.”

Having the tortoise at the school has also taught students to be more responsible, teaching them to clean up trash that Kobe might eat as he wanders around the school’s grounds, she said.

From a teacher’s standpoint, the benefits of the project are three-fold, Dobkowski said.

“This is an interdisciplinary study,” he said.

“They will make observations and write in journals, which is English; they will study the dimensions, math; and when we talk about social studies and what’s going in Darfur we can say, ‘That’s where Kobe is from.’”

For now, though, the students seemed excited by the opportunity to care for an animal some see as nontraditional.

“I told my friends about this,” seventh-grader Carlos Cortez said. “Some asked why we didn’t get a dog or something. They think we’re turtle-lovers. But there’s nothing wrong with that.”

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