No Pig in a Poke at Alt Center

The guinea pig at Brassfield Learning Center is more than just a pet for students.


Rosalia Carillo

Brassfield student Lora Redding cuddles Stewart Jefferson Brassfield.

AnnRenee Keller, Reporter

Many may not know that Brassfield Learning Center has a guinea pig named … wait for it … Stewart Jefferson Brassfield.

Teachers at Bixby’s alternative center had students suggest names and they voted 3½ years ago when the pet rodent came to be a full-time resident. Stewart Jefferson Brassfield was the winning name.

Stewart and Jefferson are made-up names, but the last name commemorates Tom Brassfield, after which the alt center is named. Brassfield was a longtime Bixby grocer and served on the school board for 30 years, according to the book A History of the Bixby Area.

Rosalia Carillo
Stewart Jefferson Brassfield

Teachers received an education grant to get the guinea pig because kids with little or no exposure to animals or nature in their homes get to see, feel, touch and make connections to the world of animals (or mammals, at least) with Stewart Jefferson Brassfield. Studies also show that the presence of animals tends to lessen tension in the classroom.

Observing and caring for an animal instill a sense of responsibility and respect for life, research shows. A pet brings increased sensitivity and awareness of the feelings and needs of others – both animals and humans. Kids learn that all living beings need more than just food and water for survival, and how their behaviors and actions affect others.

Teachers bought the guinea pig from Petsmart and students interact with him every day. He gets a bath every four to six weeks.

“The benefits are to have fun, play with, and talk to him,” teacher Lizzie Shepelwich  says.

“He makes our days,” student Lora Redding says of the guinea pig, whose nicknames are Stewie or SJB.

Before Stewart Jefferson Brassfield, a guinea pig named Buttercup resided at the alt center. However, she was accidentally killed by a dog over a weeked at a private home after her cage was inadvertently left open.

“The dog got into the cage and played with it a little too rough,” teacher Cindy Castle says. “No blood was involved.”