Sixth-grade science teacher Jim Trogdon has been in the business of this special science for 15 years, and his students love him for his wacky classroom adorned with dozens of stuffed critters, including deer, ducks, goats, bears, a swan and hundreds of other science-related items such as bird and insect nests, bones and skulls.
One Coventry teacher has adopted a special kind of teaching method that makes the classroom come to life, so to speak. Sixth-grade science teacher Jim Trogdon has been in the business of this special science for 15 years, and his students love him for his wacky classroom adorned with dozens of stuffed critters, including deer, ducks, goats, bears, a swan and hundreds of other science-related items such as bird and insect nests, bones and skulls.
In Trogdon’s classroom, a racoon gets a second life as he rests atop a hanging projector, and a goat, ram and a family of deer watch over the room from high above the chalkboard. The taxidermy-loving teacher said his interest in all things science began at an early age when his parents instilled in him a love of knowledge by taking him to various natural history museums. The interest just kept growing until he decided he wanted to teach science and obtained degrees from the University of Akron.
“I teach science because I was the kid who was always asking ‘Why is the moon round? Why is the sky blue? Why is the ocean salty?’ I wanted to know,” Trogdon said. “Science teaches kids about the way the world works, like how clothes are made or why volcanoes erupt.”
Coventry Middle School Principal Tina Norris considers Trogdon’s off-beat teaching methods an asset to the school, and one that gets notice from students and parents alike.
“Mr. Trogdon’s classroom environment intrigues students from the moment they walk in the door,” Norris said. “Their sense of wonder is immediately piqued … Students who have never before found success or interest in science find an appreciation for it through the eyes of Mr. Trogdon.”
Trogdon’s taxidermy collection only kept growing when he obtained a special collector’s permit offered by the Division of Wildlife that allows him to pick up roadkill, but many of his classroom decorations have been donated, Trogdon said. To him, the stuffed friends act as learning modules in addition to his lesson plans.
“Kids need to see models and examples of everything being taught,” Trogdon said. “You must use all of your senses when teaching science for the best learning environment. Think about your most memorable experiences as a child – maybe fishing, camping, vacationing with family. The things that left the biggest impact were probably those that you could not only see, but smell, hear, touch and taste.”
Trogdon said the taxidermied animals are loved by all of his students, and some even have names, including “Bucky,” a deer who was killed by another teacher on her way to work. Now Bucky has a permanent home in Trogdon’s classroom.
“Sometimes parents are creeped out a little, but the majority of students love the classroom,” Trogdon said. “They always say it is like the movie, ‘A Night at the Museum’ and all the mounts come to life and have a big party at night.”
Page 2 of 2 - Trogdon has also been instrumental in various unique learning opportunities in the middle school’s science department, from working with the Division of Wildlife to overnight trips at Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center and Gibraltar Island on Lake Erie. While Trogdon realizes he can’t always teach in the outdoors, his collection brings the outdoors in and helps students grasp scientific concepts.
“You can see how I can pull any animals,” Trogdon said. “If I’m doing tooth types, I have all these examples to pull from so the kids can actually see what I’m talking about. It’s not just animals, it’s rocks, minerals and insects.”
Trogdon said his unique collection not only teaches students about wildlife, but also about key concepts used by scientists.
“Science is about observation,” he said. “I can take one thing and remove it from the room randomly and the kids will say ‘Hey, where’s that squirrel?’ so they know where everything is in the room.”
Norris said Trogdon’s ability to engage students is what makes him an exceptional teacher.
“His professional leadership is immeasurable,” Norris said. “He truly understands the essence of the middle-level learner. He is full of enthusiasm, encouragement and creative ideas that he freely shares with peers. Coventry students are so fortunate to experience the gift of his talents in the classroom.”
Trogdon said his love of taxidermy is one he hopes to perpetuate as he continues his career at Coventry.
“I love taxidermy as it is truly an art and it preserves these beautiful creatures to be used for educational purposes for a long, long time,” he said.