IntroductionIn 2012 Ashlea Dancer wrote a Masters Thesis about the benefits and concerns of pets in the classroom.
BenefitsThere are many benefits to having pets in the classroom.
- The students learn how to work together. The classroom has to communicate and work together to help the pet. (Meadan & Jegatheesan, 2010)
- Having a pet creates a non-judgmental environment in which a student can talk freely. (Meadan & Jegatheesan, 2010)
- Students get an understanding of the needs of others. (Meadan & Jegatheesan, 2010; Brous, 2010).
- Students learn how to appropriately respond to the pet’s needs and behaviors. Students learn self-reliance and self-confidence. (Brous, 2010).
- Students learn to recognize the pets needs and take initiative to respond. Students will gain a sense of perspectives of others as they consider the feelings and situation of the pet. (Stone, 2010)
- Students learn self-monitoring skills. (Brous, 2010) Self-monitoring skills are when students monitor themselves and people around them for correct behavior. Animals can have a calming effect on a child. (Burch, 2003)
- Pets can be used in the curriculum to make learning more fun. (Meadan & Jegatheesan, 2010)
- Pets benefit all students, including those with disabilities. (Brous, 2010; Stone, 2010)
Potential ConcernsThe teacher should be the main caretaker. Make sure the pet doesn’t escape. Make sure the students aren't allergic. (Owens & Williams, 1995) “To be a humane role model you must (1) consistently provide all the care the pet needs, (2) establish a classroom code of humane treatment, and (3) remain vigilant in detecting and preventing students’ over-handling, mistreatment, or theft of the animal. (Humane Society, 2009)
Selecting an Appropriate Classroom PetSchool district and building policies control what teachers can do. Figure out all safety concerns such as:
- In what situation it is prone to biting
- Age consideration
- No for kids under 5: (Meadan & Jegatheesan, 2010) Reptiles, Amphibians, Ducklings, Baby chicks,
- Salmonella considerations
- Hamsters, Reptiles (including turtles)
- No wild or exotic animals (even if found in pet stores) (Humane Society, 2009) For example: chinchillas, frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles Sleeping habits (Humane Society, 2009)
- Don't disturb nocturnal animals, For example: hamsters
- Rabbits are awake in the morning and evening and sleep during the day. (Humane Society, 2009)
- Need to Provide habitat
- Potential background noise during class
Pet SafetyWear necessary protection and/or sanitary gear. Wash hands with soap and water before and after handling live specimen. (Edietis, Gray, Riggs, & Coffman, 2007, p. 37)
Pets in the CurriculumHaving a pet can open opportunities to help students want to read and write. There are many books on animals. You can get them to write stories with the animal included. (Meaden & Jegathesan, 2010)
Animal Assisted-TherapySeveral types of pets can be used in animal-assisted therapy. These include: Dogs, Cats, Horses, Farm Animals, and Small or Less Common Animals
ConclusionThere are many benefits to having a pet in the classroom. There are also concerns. You need the correct safety measures.
Potential Project Ideas and Research Questions
- Do teachers understand the benefits of pets in the classroom?
- Would having pets in places inside the school but outside the classroom be beneficial?
- Principals office
- Cafeteria/ lunchroom
- Nurse’s office
- Science/ STEM lab
- Music room
- SPED room
- Art room
- Gifted room
- What are the School district and building policies about pets in the classroom?
- Why the under-5 age restrictions?
- What habitat and food needs do common class pets have?
- What are some appropriate, common class pets?
ReferencesBrous, M. T. (2010). Integrating Pet Therapy Into Daily School Life. Exceptional Parent, 40(5), 20-21.
Burch, M. R. (2003). Wanted!: Animal Volunteers. New York: Howell Book House.
Dancer, Ashlea, “Pets in the Classroom: The Difference They Can Make” (2012). Education Masters. Paper 252.
Eidietis, L., Gray, S., Riggs, L., West, B., and Coffman, M. (2007). Goodbye Critter Jitters. Science and Children, 45(1), 37-41
The Humane Society of the United States, (2009). “Is a Classroom Pet for You?”, Retrieved November 24, 2010 by the Author from http://wwww.humanesociety.org/parents_educators/classroom_pet.html
Meadan, H. & Jegatheesan, B. (2010) Classroom Pets and Young Children: Supporting Early Development. Young Children 65(3), 70-77
Owens, R. & Williams, N., (1995). A New Breed of Teacher’s Pet. Instructor, 90(2), 48-51, 54-55
Stone, B. (2010). Cockapoos in the Classroom: Providing Unique Learning Opportunities for Children With Autism. The Exceptional Parent, 40(5), 24-5.