Having a classroom pet beings joy – and education – to many young students. Having a pet brings responsibilities and here are 5 things teachers need to think about…
Buying a class pet for your students: 5 things teachers need to think about
As the evidence mounts that animals are bringing enormous benefits into the classroom, they are becoming more common around children than ever before. It is estimated that, in the United States, at least 20 percent of teachers have incorporated some type of animal into the classroom. Here are five things every teacher needs to think about before bringing buying a class pet for their students:
1) Animals provide a great opportunity to teach children about the wider world
Western popular culture is rich with animal tales that convey ideas about relationships, human behaviour, and society. We see this in children’s movies such as Homeward Bound, Finding Nemo, and Over the Hedge; they all feature animals as central characters and give them human attributes and feelings (the scientific word would be to say the animals are ‘anthropomorphised’). Research has shown that children feel at ease around animals, and even enjoy talking to animals about their fears, joys, daily lives, and frustrations. With this in mind, it is easy to see why complex ideas have often been communicated to children through the avatar — or in the company of — an animal.
2) Pets can help children with disabilities
The presence of an animal in the classroom can help with the social-emotional development of children, with disabilities. An extensive study across 41 classrooms and in 15 schools in Australia found that after even 20-minute animal-interaction sessions led to improved social functioning and an increased interest in attending school. The study concluded by stating that animal-assisted activities were a “simple and cost-effective means of helping educators and families to improve the social functioning of children” with, in this case, autism spectrum disorder.
3) A pet will bring a real sense of community and togetherness in the classroom
The organisational duties that an animal requires, the cleaning and feeding and nurturing, provide an excellent focal point in bringing the classroom together. The children must learn to work together, communicate, and take responsibility; all positive traits that work to reinforce confident relationships and togetherness. As a result, even eye contact and spontaneous conversation improves after a short while of working and learning around pets in the classroom.
4) Any potential problems that could arise
Animals are a lot of fun, but there is a popular saying that “A dog is for life; not just for Christmas”. The same is applicable to pets in the classroom. They are living, breathing animals and not a just a form of stress release for the children. They will need looking after, cleaning, and some children may have allergic reactions to their presence.
Teachers will also have to consider the responsibility of the animal during end-of-term holidays, and the cost (however minimal) of looking after a class pet; including vaccinations, bedding, feed, and the concept of death. These problems can be avoided, however, with the hiring of an animal education workshop: as mentioned above, in point 2, even short animal-interaction sessions can lead to enormous benefits in child development and satisfaction.
5) It doesn’t have to be fluffy or cuddly
Bugs have a bad reputation for being “icky” or “creepy”, but these preconceptions are usually overcome after a short while in their company. Even with Madagascan hissing cockroaches, children grew attached them, and much of the same togetherness and responsibility traits developed throughout the classroom: with the added bonus that they got to learn a lot more about the natural insect world, including concepts to do with insect survival mechanisms, metamorphosis, and the function of the exoskeleton.
About the author:
John Stuart works on behalf of Wildsci.co.uk in outreach and content creation. He creates engaging content that helps businesses connect with their audience and stand out from the crowd.
10 Tips to improve the human-animal bond
Therapy dogs help students
How animals can help autistic children
Kids and pets: The benefits of living with a companion animal
Top ten pets for kids