lights. Expected soon are a guinea pig, a snake, a tarantula, an iguana, an aquarium and plants for the attached greenhouse.
The pupils, from pre-school through sixth grade, also moved in after winter vacation and seem as at home as the chinchillas.
"It's a bigger room than our old classroom, and there is more space to play," said third grader Rona Kassem of Philadelphia.
"You can do a lot more things," agreed Erika Hamberg of Meadowbrook, pointing out how classmates were spread all over the room Tuesday to assemble a simple machine from Lego blocks.
The room provides a better environment for the school's regular science curriculum, science teacher Barry Middleberg said, adding, "It says something to the kids about how important science is. This makes it more appealing. Would you rather play baseball in a new stadium or on a dirt lot?"
Headmaster Robert Sarkisian said, "I'd venture to say this is the most unique science room of any elementary school."
In these days of leased portable classrooms and budget trimming, a permanent addition to any school is unusual.
Meadowbrook, with an increasing enrollment, had to enlarge in some way, Sarkisian said.
Architect Jay Leischner of Phase II Designs in Elkins Park designed the science center to be compatible with the rest of the school, parts of which were cited in 1990 by the Philadelphia chapter of the American Institute of Architecture. The center, on the 20-acre wooded campus, was built by Uliano Construction Inc. of Willow Grove.
A capital campaign has raised more than $50,000, and some equipment, such as the greenhouse and the computer system, was donated.
Third grader Daniel Zelitch of Elkins Park donated Skipper, one of his five white rabbits, and visits him during recess.
"He's pretty frisky," Daniel said. "He likes bananas, pellets and water. We're experimenting to see if he likes cookies.
"So far, I'd say he does."
The rabbit and other animals "are easily handled by the kids, and teach care and respect," said Middleberg, who used to teach at the Academy of Natural Sciences.
Although he is still moving in, Middleberg has a lot of plans. The easy access to the outdoors and nature trails will mean more nature walks.
Pupils will landscape the outside space and start a butterfly garden. In the spring, a compost bin will be built where pupils can take vegetable garbage from lunch. The worms will show pupils the meaning of biodegradable.
Middleberg is hoping that the chincillas will mate. Cozily ensconced in their new home, who knows?