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Students Visit with Caitlin and Tiptoe
May 28, 2021 – Nellie Schmidt and her students at Shenandoah Valley Elementary in Parkway Schools got up close and personal – virtually – to learn about a 175-pound tortoise who has become an online sensation.
Tiptoe the tortoise is one half of Caitlin and Tiptoe. California resident Caitlin Doran shares videos and photos of Tiptoe, an African desert tortoise, on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook. Millions of followers check in to see Tiptoe eat, wade around in his pool, and explore his neighborhood.
Schmidt, an SSD teacher at Shenandoah Valley Elementary, said she discovered Caitlin and Tiptoe when she downloaded the TikTok app during the summer of 2020.
“My favorite animal is a turtle and I used to have a leopard tortoise growing up. He ended up getting too big for us to care for him properly, so we gave him to a veterinarian in Florida and he now lives a luxurious lifestyle in the nice, warm Florida weather!” she said.
Schmidt sent a message several weeks ago to Caitlin asking if she and Tiptoe would consider joining her and her students on Zoom, and they set a date for May 25.
During the week leading up to Caitlin and Tiptoe’s virtual visit, Schmidt and her students studied up on facts about tortoises, including their size and what they like to eat. They got to see that learning come to life once Tiptoe appeared on their computer screens.
Caitlin gave the students a tour of Tiptoe’s space in her backyard, including a big yellow house equipped with heated lamps and hay for him to snack on. Students shared their questions, including if Tiptoe ever gets to go inside the house with his human family.
“He’s pretty big and he likes to knock down furniture, so usually we like to keep him in his outdoor space,” Caitlin said.
The students also learned about the differences between turtles and tortoises. Caitlin explained that the main difference is that turtles’ legs are designed for swimming in water, and tortoises’ legs are built to help them dig in desert sand.
Caitlin said her interest in tortoises started at an early age.
“When I was 7 years old, I put Tiptoe at the top of my Christmas list,” she said, also sharing how he got his name. “When he walks, he actually walks up on his tippy-toes.”