By Teachers, For Teachers
If you are considering getting a classroom pet but are still undecided, then ponder no longer, because a recent survey conducted by Pets in the Classroom shows that children experience behavioral and academic improvement as a result of having a classroom pet. The study yielded some impressive statistics, but the most touching results were from the teachers’ classroom management comments about how their pets have helped to transform their students’ lives, from overcoming anxiety and behavioral issues to learning empathy and responsibility. Overall, classroom pets can have a significant positive impact on children.
Every school year Pets in the Classroom provides a grant program where they accept applications to provide financial assistance to teachers to purchase a small classroom pet such as a fish, guinea pig, hamster, or other small animals. All teachers that qualify for the program will receive a grant. The main qualifier to be expected for the grant is that you must be a pre-K-9th grade public or private school teacher residing in the U.S. or Canada. Another exception is it must be your first time applying for a grant -- if it is not, you are only eligible for a sustaining grant. If you meet all of these qualifications, you will receive a grant for a small classroom animal.
There is no denying that a small pet can bring significant value to your classroom as well as be an adorable addition. Teachers who were surveyed by Pets in the Classroom delivered overwhelmingly positive responses on a multitude of ways that their students have benefited from having these animals as part of a classroom management routine. Ninety-six percent of respondents had a positive experience, while 90% said they would recommend the experience to others. Teachers reported that their students had an improvement in attendance, test scores, empathy, self-esteem, engagement, social skills, and responsibility, and had a decrease in anxiety and disciplinary issues. Here we’ll take a closer look at these demonstrated improvements and how they can enrich student learning.
Survey results show that nearly 78% of teachers saw an improvement in student attendance due to getting a classroom pet. One teacher surveyed saw a significant improvement in an anxiety-filled student who hated coming to school until the student had classroom interactions with the pet.
The same amount of teachers who saw improvement in attendance also saw growth in academic performance as well. A classroom pet helped to increase one student’s performance on a standardized test from the 20th percentile to the 90th percentile.
Classroom pets can help improve a child’s behavior. Of the teachers surveyed with classroom pets, 86% saw a decrease in disciplinary issues with their students. One respondent said that the students with severe behavioral problems took their jobs as caretaker of the animal very seriously and did not want to lose it due to behavior.
Teachers also saw a decrease in anxiety among students. One respondent from the survey said that a student in her classroom who had severe school anxiety became excited to come to school to care for the animal. This teacher, along with 93% of other teachers surveyed, all saw a significant decrease in anxiety of their students once there was a pet in the classroom.
Another excellent benefit of having a classroom pet is that it can increase student engagement. Over 97% of teachers surveyed saw an increase in participation, with one respondent commenting that her reluctant reader was now an engaging reader when they were able to read next to the classroom pet.
Classroom pets also increase student responsibility, 98% of teachers surveyed said. Having a classroom pet takes a lot of responsibility, and students must learn to feed, groom, and care for the animal for it to thrive and survive.
A classroom pet is a wonderful way to teach students empathy and compassion, because caring for and nurturing a pet takes kindness and understanding. Ninety-eight percent of teachers surveyed saw an increase in compassion thanks to the classroom pet.
Classroom pets also help to increase students’ self-esteem, with 92% of teachers surveyed seeing an improvement. Many teachers have found that their shyer students became less shy after interacting with the classroom pet.
An increase in social skills was also another benefit of having a classroom pet, cited 95% of respondents. Caring for a pet allows students to interact with one another more, which helps the classroom build more solid relationships with one another.
In short, there are many valuable benefits to having a classroom pet. During the 2018-19 school year, the Pets in the Classroom grant awarded an astounding 25,550 pets to teachers, the largest number of grants awarded since the program’s inception in 2011.
Sept. 26, 2019
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master’s of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, Graduateprogram.org, and Hey Teach. She was also the elementary education expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com