It’s an odd thing to love: you can’t pet her (bacteria!), she sleeps a lot (“she’s just still”), and she’s not terribly colorful (except for a slight hue after she eats). But when you ask 2nd-grade girls about “Pumpkin,” the axolotl that lives in a tank in Marianne Maloy’s science classroom, their hands shoot up. Never heard of or seen this creature before? It’s a type of salamander that spends its entire life underwater. She’s ADORABLE!” says one admirer. “She’s just SO cute!” says another. The children are fascinated: “She BREATHES through her SKIN!” They are often rewarded for good work or behavior with a visit to the tank: “She’s good to look at when I think; it’s calming.”
Ms. Maloy picked up the critically endangered amphibian from a fellow science teacher as the world shut down due to COVID in 2020. She kept Pumpkin in her son’s room at home until classrooms opened back up to animals/amphibians this past fall. And the students are glad Pumpkin is at school to stay.
As Pumpkin grows, her habitat changes. Ms. Maloy, who has learned a lot through this website, recently added substrate and plants to provide a cozy environment, and next year she plans to set up a 55-gallon tank for more space with additional hiding places. She and the children always have Pumpkin's sensitivities in mind; there is a tank cover for sunny or busy classroom days. Ms. Maloy states enthusiastically, "She is well taken care of and very much loved by all of the students!"