If robins are the first sign of spring, what do Penguins mean? Books come alive at Flanders Elementary School

Southington students were in for a surprise last Friday when penguins arrived at Flanders Elementary School. Classrooms have been reading the book "Mr. Poppers Penguins," and the school’s PTO arranged for Mystic Aquarium workers to bring in a real, live penguin. Penguin expert Aimee Sugrue, left, introduced Green Blue, center, to the students, but the African penguin shouldn’t be confused with Flanders student Amar Ameti. The student gets to don a penguin costume (helped by Mary Ellen Mateleska) for the demonstration.

Flanders Elementary School had a surprise visitor on Friday, March 6—Green Blue, an African penguin from Mystic Aquarium.

As two staff members from the penguin conservation team at the aquarium rolled the penguin’s cart around the corner and into the auditorium where the students were waiting, the children could hardly contain their excitement. These students were well-read and knew their stuff when it comes to these flightless birds.

For the last several weeks, the whole school has been participating in a reading event in which all students of all grade levels read “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” by Richard and Florence Atwater.

“The PTO supplies the books for each of the students, and they’re assigned a certain chapter each week,” said PTO president Josh Reed. “Every week, they answer trivia questions and have a chance to earn prizes.”

The reading event culminated with a visit from a real-live penguin.


“This is our third year running this reading program,” said Flanders principal Katie Guerrette. “It’s really a great experience that pulls our community together with one common topic and builds on family literacy—that’s the ultimate goal.”

Aimee Sugrue, an Educator from Mystic Aquarium, holds an African penguin named “Green Blue” at Flanders Elementary School last Friday.

Guerrette explained that, since all grade levels read the same book, it’s important that parents or guardians come together and assist the younger students with the reading, and that builds upon family literacy.

Between Guerrette and the school’s literary specialist, Debbie Crean, they are challenged with selecting just the right book for students—one that is readable with family support and is an appropriate topic for all reading levels.

“’Mr. Popper’s Penguins’ was the best choice for students based on the interest, readability, and an appropriate topic,” said Crean. “The goal is to build a community of readers at our school and to build a love of reading.”

This is the third year that the school has taken on this reading challenge. Last year, they read “Frindle” by Andrew Clements, and the year before that, they read “The World According to Humphrey” by Betty G. Birney.

“It’s been an amazing experience and it’s wonderful to see the children enjoying this,” said Crean. “We are thankful for the partnership with the PTO to make this happen. This is such a wonderful program that provides an opportunity for us, and for every student and family member to participate in together.”

Green Blue, an African Penguin, delighted students at Flanders last Friday.

At the visit with Green Blue, students learned all about penguins and what makes them unique. They learned how they disguise themselves, how they find a mate, what they eat and what a veterinarian visit consists of.

“Green Blue” gets her name from an arrangement of colored beads on her limb that helps the penguin conservation team tell her apart from other penguins. She is a 19 year old African penguin, and a grandmother.

They also talked about African penguins being an endangered species. Students shared ways to help endangered species survive, such as recycling and keeping trash out of waterways.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at News@SouthingtonObserver.com.