Mr. Michael Jeffreys, Ms. Bekah O'Connor and and the second grade class at Snipes Academy of Arts and Design in Wilmington, NC turned the passing of Titus, the final golden-crowned sifaka in captivity into an opportunity to learn about lemurs, Madagascar, endangered species, and about kindness and compassion.
Every morning, Mr. Jeffreys gets up and reads the News and Observer online for articles to share with his students. When he saw the article about Titus dying of cancer at age 25 (quite elderly for a lemur,) he decided to project the article for his class to view. Mr. Jeffreys said, "They were all quite interested. We turned the passing of Titus into a learning experience. They will forever put Madagascar and Titus together. - - - We are all more educated now because of Titus."
The second grade class at Snipes Academy learned that lemurs only natural habitat is Madagascar, an island off the coast of Africa. They learned that golden-crowned sifaka's habitat is even smaller, and that the tiny habitat and the precious lemurs that live there are in grave danger.
They also learned that there are lots of people who care - people in Madagascar and people at the Duke Lemur Center and people like them - second graders in Wilmington, NC, who care about each species and each individual animal.
They learned an equally important lesson: what they do matters. They recognized that the people, who cared for Titus for 15 of his 25 years, were deeply saddened by his passing. They recognized that the staff at the Duke Lemur Center was sad because the last golden-crowned sifaka in captivity was gone, but also because an animal they knew well and had cared for daily had passed away. So these seven and eight year olds took action. They designed beautiful hand-made cards for the staff and sent them to comfort the people who had cared for Titus. The students' thoughtfulness brightened the day for the Duke Lemur Center staff.
Here is a sampling of quotes from the second graders at Snipes Academy:
Dear Lemur Center Staff, Sorry Titus passed away, but you can keep taking care of the other animals. We know you tried to take care of him. We will pray for him. - - -
I am so sorry that your lemur passed away. It was really cute, and you did a good job trying to help him. He was a nice little lemur. I would have cried too. - -
I know you loved him for 15 years. We went to the website and read it, and it was sad. We know they live in Madagascar. I know he didn't eat all his food because he was sick. I hope the other lemurs are healthy. And I know Titus loved getting his arm scratched.
I am so sorry about Titus. I will pray. I might adopt one. Please write us.
(We did write and the Red-ruffed lemurs sent an original work of art!)
Sazoria summed up all our feelings with these words:
I love you, Titus. I miss you, Titus. I am so sorry that you passed away.
The staff at the Duke Lemur Center was deeply moved by the caring and compassion of the students in Mr. Jeffreys' class. Thank you, Mr. Jeffreys, Ms. O'Connor, and all you wise and wonderful students in the second grade at Snipes Academy!