At 9 a.m. on the the last Monday of February, 18 orderly kindergarten children from Betz Elementary School filed into Cheney Dental Clinic managed by Dr. Andrew Martinssen. The children marched straight to the 200-gallon fish tank. But, where were the fish? With all those happy little faces and searching eyes suddenly so close, the fish dove deep and hid in the rocks at the bottom of the tank.
Rebecca Webber, kindergarten teacher and her assistant, Jody Scott, kept friendly order and soon the little seekers of fish settled quietly on the floor. Fish, who never tire of swimming, came from their hiding places and decided if they were to be observed, they would return the favor.
Soon they were gracefully showing the children a simple fish ballet. The children saw big blue fish with stripes, tiny blue fish with stripes and a single black and orange fish that kept to itself in the corner. Debby Camp, dental assistant said, “This is a clown fish. He’s new to the bunch and being a bit shy, he spends his time observing the back wall; similar to the home he came from.”
Two of the children’s parents, Kayla Bogle and Trevor Westlund sat in on the show.
Camp captured the children’s attention as she began to read one book, then another, explaining how animals brush their teeth and how important brushing is for everyone.
The children responded to Camp’s questions, “Have any of you lost a baby tooth? Have you ever had a cavity? How often should we brush our teeth? ” The children listened carefully to the stories and responded with correct answers. Camp and her many attentive listeners even talked about the tooth fairy. However, there were a few friendly differences of opinion on that subject.
Meanwhile the fish, feeling at home now with the inquisitors, continued with their water ballet. Then it was time to feed the fish. Camp showed the children how little the fish need of their diet that is frozen shrimp. She explained that the tiniest fish need just a smidgen of food.
The tank’s 200 gallons of 75-degree salt water comes from the Pacific and Indian oceans. Every Monday evening a man arrives to clean the tank.
Camp said, “Fish gradually lose their scales as they age. Some fish live past 20 years. Everything in the tank, including the anemones, is alive, except for the rocks.”
Those rocks come in handy. Camp said, “Fish sleep at night.” Did you know that? There is something for all of us to learn, it seems. Camp explained that an automatic light simulates day and night. When “night” arrives the fish hide in the rocks for protection from predators.
Some of the children, careful not to touch the tank as Webber had cautioned them, pointed to the big blue fish as the prettiest. A few decided the tiny blue fish were the nicest. “Mr. Lonesome,” the black and orange fish, still hugged the wall and didn’t get any raves. He must brush up on his social skills if he wants to be noticed.
Camp took the children, a few at a time, on a tour of some of the dentistry rooms. As they lined up to return to school the children all said thank you and goodbye. The fish continued to swim, diving, rising to the surface, swirling, displaying their beautiful colors, while we mortals only dreamed of swimming in 75-degree water.
Luella Dow is a Cheney-area author. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.