Students enjoy their time with Cocoa in Jennifer Koplitz's fourth-grade classroom.

During the cool seasons, a cup of cocoa can warm up a morning. In Mrs. Jennifer Koplitz's fourth-grade classroom, a whole different sort of Cocoa warms the hearts of her students. This Cocoa is a guinea pig, who is spending his fourth year in the Walworth Jt. School District #1 classroom.

"Cocoa is a bright spot in everyone's day," said Koplitz. "He actively greets the students when they come into the classroom. He is often looking for fuzzies (hay tops) or carrots."

The students are responsible for giving the guinea pig water, food and treats. Koplitz takes care of all the "dirty" work. At the end of the year and on breaks Cocoa lives at Koplitz's house. In the summer of 2019, Koplitz was awarded a grant through 'Pets in the Classroom," which helped with the initial set-up of having the classroom pet. Each month Cocoa needs food, hay, bedding and treats.

Koplitz, concluding her 23rd year of teaching, has always had some sort of a pet in the classroom. (The other fourth-grade classroom, taught by Jill Trosclair, "adopted" a cow, in a long-distance project, this school year.)

"I've had hamsters, gerbils (and baby gerbils), fish, red crabs, and water frogs," said Koplitz. "I find a pet is a great way to create a classroom family. We all look forward to seeing Cocoa each morning!"

The joy for incoming fourth-graders the past several school years is knowing that Cocoa never "graduates" to another grade level.