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by Sue Granzella

I was a substitute teacher in a kindergarten class. For a full week, I led the children through the wealth of lesson plans left for me: math, language, and science activities all dealing with “mammals.” The children’s enthusiasm and grasp of the subject matter impressed me.

Five months later, I returned to that same classroom. The teacher had left a book called My New Kitten, and with the mass of five-year-olds at my feet, I began reading about the early weeks of a kitten’s life. When I flipped to the photo of a cat nursing her litter, children shot their hands into the air, waving frantically for my attention.

“She’s the mom!” exclaimed a boy.

“She’s giving milk to her babies!” cried a girl.

“That cat is a mammal!” rang out a voice.

Next, a voice in Spanish-accented English: “Because mammals give milk to the babies!”

A girl at my feet exclaimed, “And all of us are mammals, too!”

The class before me nodded their heads, all except for one boy, whose eyes widened in horror. He shook his head emphatically.

“I ain’t no mammal!” he cried. “I ain’t NEVER drunk milk off a cat!”