Should you consider introducing a pet in your classroom? Here’s what to consider.
By: Andrea Mulder-Slater
Pets are a wonderful source of happiness and inspiration.
Educators have used animals in the classroom for decades. From a goldfish filled aquarium to the hamster who roams the classroom floor in his roller ball, there is no doubt that critters are a great educational tool. However, keeping a classroom pet takes a lot of time and effort. There is more involved than simply purchasing a small cage and a bag or two of food. There are a lot of factors to consider before taking the plunge. Here are a few of the pros and cons of having a critter in the classroom.
- An animal in the classroom creates improved learning experiences for your students as all areas of the curriculum are enhanced. EG: Math (how much does a hamster weigh?) Science (what does a snake eat?) Geography (where does a ferret come from?) Social Studies (different cultures – different pets) and Language Arts (how can I describe the goldfish?)
- Students can easily see, feel, touch and make connections to the wide world of animals.
- Observing and caring for an animal instills a sense of responsibility and respect for life.
- Enthusiastic participation on the part of your students.
- Increased sensitivity and awareness of the feelings and needs of others — both animals and humans.
- There will be an understanding that all living things need more than just food and water for survival.
- Students will see how their behavior and actions affect others.
- Less tension in the classroom.
- Other classrooms can visit the classroom pets and students can create presentations for them.
- Animals need food, water and most of all attention. Some, obviously more than others. You should be prepared to provide all of these things on a regular basis.
- Its not enough to send students home with pets for weekends and holidays. Parent MUST be involved.
- Your classroom must be suitable for the animal you choose to keep. Snakes, hamsters and rabbits all need a certain environment to be healthy. All it takes is a little research and homework to see if your classroom is pet-friendly.
- Certain animals need room to roam. Can you provide this?
- You must stick to the animal’s diet. Bits of sandwiches and candy bars are not acceptable.
- If you have a male and female hamster, rabbit or fish are you prepared for babies? Will you spay or neuter your larger pets?
- If the pet becomes ill, are you able to care for it? Do you have a vet?
- Do you have students with animal allergies/asthma? If so, choose a pet that won’t cause problems.
If you are thinking of adding a pet to your classroom, please don’t feel discouraged. Simply put, a pet is a big responsibility and you should always think before you act. As a teacher, the animal will become your responsibility and you should be fully prepared. Do you know any teachers who have pets in their classroom? Talk to them, they will be a great resource as you decide to bring a critter into your classroom. Of course, there is always the option of keeping a “virtual” pet. This could be a pet on the internet or a pet that you and your students create.
Still interested? The key is to choose a pet that you can safely and comfortably keep in your classroom. If that means one goldfish in a bowl, well than go out and find yourself a goldfish and call him Charlie. Why not?
Here are the most popular classroom pets:
- guinea pigs
Pet Care Trust
This program is designed to help teachers that would like small animals as teaching aids or mascots etc. in the classroom, or to assist teachers who presently have animals, in obtaining supplies needed to care for the pet. The program offers grants of up to $150.00 for the purchase of small animals such as fish, hamsters, birds, as well as supplies. The folks at Pet Care Trust, feel that exposing children to the care and responsibility for animals is imperative in the development of good character and compassion in relationship to all living things. Too much time is spent killing and destroying as a pastime on the computer. The care of animals teaches children life affirming values.