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A Teacher’s Guide to Classroom Pets

Janelle Cox

 

Are you thinking about getting a classroom pet? Research has shown that pets stimulate learning and enrich the classroom experience. They are also an excellent way to teach children about responsibility and can provide hours of learning and entertainment. However, keeping a classroom pet takes a lot of time and effort. If you are on the fence about getting a pet for you classroom, use this guide to help learn about the benefits and responsibilities.

Why do you want a Classroom Pet?

Before acquiring an animal for your classroom, consider why you want a classroom pet. Is it to teach students responsibility? Share your love for animals? Help children learn observation skills? Or learn compassion or empathy? Think of all considerations before making your final decision. 

Benefits of Classroom Animals

According to research, classroom pets can provide a variety of educational values. Here are a few:

Teaches Responsibility: Having a classroom pet allows children to understand the responsibility that is involved in order to take care of an animal. Whether it’s feeding it lunch or cleaning out the cage, children will learn what it takes to care for something other than themselves.

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Students Learn Compassion: A classroom pet is a great way to teach children compassion and how to nurture. Children will learn how to properly handle and care for the pet. Even the toughest of kids will have the chance to practice his/her nurturing skills. They will learn that they need to treat the pet carefully in order for it to trust them.

Is Therapeutic for Children: Classroom pets can bring calmness to children who have anxiety or stress in their lives. Studies show that classroom animals lessen tension and help children to be calmer. What teacher wouldn’t want that in their classroom?

Can be good for Your Health: There has been a lot of research on the benefits of animals and your health. Studies not only show that children who have pets are better equipped to fight off infection, but they also tend to average more days at school than children who do not have a pet.

It Enriches the Classroom Experience: Classroom pets introduce children to the world of animals. If students don’t have a pet of their own at home, they can see, feel, touch and learn what it takes to care for one at school.

Health Issues

Be aware that with a classroom pet comes health issues. If you have students with severe allergies or asthma, a classroom pet may not be a good idea. If you do not have any of these issues in your classroom, be aware that students may develop allergies from the pet you choose. Some animals may bite, or peck at humans when handled, and they can even carry infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Before you choose your classroom pet make sure you do your homework on the animal, then send a note home with students to see if anyone is allergic.

Which Animals Make the Best Classroom Pets?

Not sure what animal would make the best classroom pet? Consider any of the following.

Fish: Consider fish, they have no allergies or odor concerns, and can be left unattended for days at a time. The maintenance is low (cleaning the tank once a week) and students can easily feed the fish with little supervision.

Amphibians: Like fish, frogs and salamanders make great classroom pets. They too have no allergies and can be left unattended for days at a time. A popular classroom frog is the African Clawed frog, which  only needs to be fed two to three times per week. The only concern with amphibians is the risk of salmonella. Students would have to wash their hands before and after touching these types of animals.

Reptiles: Snakes and turtles are another popular choice for a classroom pet. Garter and corn snakes are popular as well as ball pythons. Turtles are another good choice because they can be picked up easily and are pretty low maintenance. Good hygiene is recommended in caring for reptiles because they can carry salmonella.

Hermit Crabs: Hermit crabs have been popular in science classrooms throughout school districts for some time now. What people don’t realize is they can be a lot of work, die easily and smell very bad. But other than that, students seem to love them, and they can be a great addition to your science curriculum.

Other Pets: Be aware of “furry” pets because of allergies. Pets such as guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, rats, and mice may harbor viruses too.

Before purchasing your classroom pet, think about who will take care of this animal on the weekends and the holidays. Think about where you would put the pet in your classroom that would not cause a distraction. If you are still set on getting an animal for your classroom consider getting a grant from Petsintheclassroom.org or Petsmart.com.

Do you have a classroom pet? What do you have? Do you have any tips that could help a fellow teacher decide what pet is right for them? Please share in the comment section below.

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 also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators