These students say ‘Goose, Goose, Duck’


Linda Wiggins

Sergio is a sixth-grade class member at Suntree Elementary School much like any other ― as far as he is concerned. Except that rather than adolescent braces and the trendiest gear, he has a beak and feathers. 

Sergio is a duck.

His was the only egg out of 40 that teacher Jana Gabrielski’s class could get to hatch during a spring science project, which made him all the more important to them. With no other species of his kind to imprint on, his classmates became more important to him as well. For Sergio, the students are his fellow hatchlings and Gabrielski is their mom.

He’ll follow the group anywhere. One day filing out the door after students who were dismissed for orchestra practice, he had to be picked up and returned to his classroom enclosure wings beating. He so desperately did not want to be left behind.

To say he is the most popular member of the class is an understatement. Children from all over the school make a beeline for his outdoor enclosure to say hello whenever they can.

While roaming the classrooms, he wears a specially fitted diaper to prevent accidents. If any cleanup is needed, students in the classroom make up the Sergio Squad and see to this and all manner of his care and feeding. The experience inspired students to write an article published in the school district newspaper called Goose, Goose, Duck.

The Sergio Squad spends time with Sergio as he bathes, often taking turns reading to him.Student volunteers come to school early to fill his kiddie pool with fresh water and make him take a bath. They sit cross-legged in his low fenced enclosure reading books to him.

“He loves our company. He gets really lonely without us,” student Julia said.

Tommy is a favorite fellow fledgling, the pair frequently found in a soothing embrace, Sergio’s long neck draped across Tommy’s back, eyes drifting to a close.

While he was named by students after a male soccer player, he actually may turn out to be a she. A duck’s gender is not clearly discernible until it passes adolescence — exactly the current human age of Sergio’s student counterparts. If he is truly a male, he will grow a curly drake tail feather and his quack will drop an octave.

While his sixth-grade peers graduate to middle school, and Sergio spends the summer in a foster home, it might just be “Sheila” who returns in Sergio’s place. 

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