Pets in the Classroom
Pets in the classroom are now easy for every teacher to get. The benefits students receive just by having a pet in their own classroom are life-changing. I’m going to share with you how to get one for free.
“Nothing else that blinks!”
That used to be my household rule. Nothing else that blinks is coming into my house. I have enough creatures to take care of. It actually is still my rule.
So what did my sister-in-law do? She told my 8-year-old that hermit crabs do not blink, therefore, not breaking the rule. We are now home to 4 hermit crabs. Yes, four.
Don’t tell anyone, but I actually really enjoy them and they are easy to take care of. Between shedding their exoskeletons and changing shells, they can be quite interesting to watch.
It’s just unbelievable to me at times how Kevin will not interact with his brother but will go out of his way to frequently interact with our dogs. And the hermit crabs, too. Pets can have an amazing effect on kids.
Here is some information if you want your pets in your classroom.
And yes, be that parent who volunteers to take it home over breaks. One of my friends took the classroom hamsters home over the summer and they had 9 babies! You never know what you might get to experience.
Best Classroom Pet Ideas
Having a pet in the classroom can be a lot of fun. You can always create a chore chart for kids to decide who is going to care for the pet that day.
- Hermit Crabs: Hermit crabs are surprisingly social and interesting to watch. They periodically need new shells which is a fun and interesting lesson. They also need feeding and a clean cage, but not daily like other pet options. A hermit crab is also probably the least expensive pet to maintain.
- Fish: Fish are fun and easy to care for. Watching them in a tank can have a really calming effect. The downside would be the maintenance. Depending on the tank you choose, it may need to be cleaned often.
- Snakes: Snakes are fun, but they may scare some students. Having a classroom pet snake may help teach some students how to get over their fears. The downside might be finding someone to take this classroom pet home over breaks.
- Spiders: Spiders are also surprisingly social and low maintenance. Depending on the age group, you can teach many math and science lessons with this classroom pet. Mind you, you’ll never see one in my classroom, but some of you may enjoy it.
Classroom Pet Ideas to Avoid
Of course, this is going to be a personal preference. But, I would stay away from these ideas as ideal classroom pets.
Guinea Pigs: Guinea pigs are cute and soft. But, they have a short life span and are high maintenance. So this classroom pet suggestion should be for older students like middle school, who can handle daily cleaning and feeding. Guinea pigs also exist better in pairs, so you have to get two. They also should not be left alone over weekends, so that means every week you have to find a family to take them.
Turtles: Turtles seem cute. And, I guess they are cute to look at. But, they carry salmonella and will bite when provoked or scared. Use caution and be very selective with your age group, if you choose a turtle as a classroom pet.
Good and Bad Classroom Pets
When it comes to lizards, geckos, and salamanders, teachers should do their research before bringing in a classroom pet.
My son’s elementary classroom had anoles. They were small, fun, and easy to care for.
But, other lizards can grow to be 2-3 feet long or more. Some will bite. And some just don’t do well in captivity, but might be sold as pets because they are cool to look at.
Various reptiles make great classroom pets, but not all do. So make sure you investigate the exact species that you are getting, and what maintenance is required before you bring it to your classroom.
The anoles were fun. However, we had to make weekly trips to the Pet Store to get crickets. So then I had to have a place to keep the crickets and try to keep them alive for a week.
Free Classroom Pets for Teachers
The Pet Care Trust’s Pets in the Classroom grant program, which has previously been available to Pre-Kindergarten through 8th-grade teachers, will be expanding its reach beginning August 1st. For the first time, teachers in 9th-grade classrooms will also be eligible to apply.
The grant program will provide Pre-Kindergarten through 9th-grade teachers in private and public and charter schools who desire to introduce a pet into the classroom or already have a pet in the classroom with funding toward a small animal or for pet supplies.
According to Steve King, executive director of the Trust, “We have seen the benefits that classroom pets provide to pre-school, elementary, and middle school students and are excited to bring the Pets in the Classroom program into high schools for the first time with this expansion into 9th grade.
We hope to accommodate other high school grades in the future, but are trying to work within our budget limitations and grow at a sustainable pace.”
Benefits of Classroom Pets
Studies, including one completed by the American Humane Association and the Pet Care Trust, indicate that classroom pets provide a variety of benefits to students.
These studies reinforce thousands of teachers’ experiences that classroom pets: aid in improving school attendance, encourage nurturing, build self-esteem, promote empathy, teach responsibility, stimulate learning, enrich the classroom experience, and become friends.
One little pet can help shy kids open up, struggling readers build confidence, rough children develop nurturing tendencies, and uninterested students gain a new desire for learning.
There are just so many benefits to having pets in the classroom, just too many to list them all. Just remember that many common items and medications are toxic to pets.
It increases morale, helps students develop ownership and caretaking skills, reduces stress and anxiety, and levels the playing field in discussions.
Here are some of the many benefits of animal therapy listed on the PAWS for People website:
Mental Health Benefits of Pets
- lifts spirits and lessens depression
- decreases feelings of isolation and alienation
- encourages communication
- provides comfort
- increases socialization
- reduces boredom
- lowers anxiety
- helps children overcome speech and emotional disorders
- creates motivation for the client to recover faster
- reduces loneliness
- helps children focus better
- improves literacy skills
- provides a non-stressful, non-judgmental environment
- increases self-confidence
- reduces self-consciousness
Free Classroom Pet Grant
The program was established by the Pet Care Trust with the knowledge that, while they are a valuable teaching tool, many teachers have very limited resources for the support of classroom animals.
With eight different grant types, each teacher has the opportunity to choose the grant that is right for him or her through a direct, no-hassle application on the Pets in the Classroom website (www.PetsintheClassroom.org). For more information, visit www.PetsintheClassroom.org.
And with over 90,000 grants having been issued since the program’s inception, nearly 4 million children have experienced these benefits thanks to the Pets in the Classroom grant program.
Grants are available in the following categories through your local Pet Supplies Plus store:
Tropical Fish GloFish
Guinea Pig Hamster
Bearded Dragon Hermit Crab
Petsmart Free Classroom Pet
Through the grant program, teachers have the option to obtain a pet through one of the program’s participating retailers- Petco, Petsmart, Pet Supermarket, Pet Supplies Plus, Petland, and Petland Discounts – or to purchase their pet through a local pet store through a rebate grant.
Pets in the Classroom Sustaining Grant
Past grant recipients are not eligible to receive funding for a new classroom pet but are welcome to apply for a sustaining grant, which provides up to $50 to maintain an existing classroom pet.
Pet Supplies for the Classroom Pet
We love our local Pet Supplies Plus. If you end up being the family that is the eventual forever home for your pet in the classroom, make sure you tell them that at Pet Supplies Plus. Some stores will give you a discount on supplies.
Talk to your child’s teacher and make sure that they are aware of this program. Maybe they have previously thought about having an animal but the cost was an issue. And, if you are interested in pet therapy with your disabled child, click the link for PAWS for People and see if maybe your school is appropriate for one of their reading programs or autism programs. Or, maybe you want to volunteer with your pet.
This opportunity is just too cute and too good to pass up!