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The Pros and Cons of Class Pets

Photo by edenpictures (flickr.com)

If you are thinking about adding a pet to your classroom, there are some pros and cons you may want to consider. Not every class is appropriate for a pet, and some schools even prohibit them in the classroom. Check out the benefits and drawbacks below, as well as the alternatives for having a live classroom pet.

The Benefits of Having a Class Pet

Class pets can provide students with wonderful hands-on learning. Their care and upkeep are tangible ways to teach students about responsibility and compassion. In fact, learning how to care for for something else is one of the best lessons that a child can learn during his formative years. In addition to responsibility and compassion, a class pet also encourages students to be respectful of other living things. A live animal who becomes the class’ mascot is a great representative of the environment as a whole. With a teacher who is diligent about ensuring the animal’s well-being, students can learn how what they do to and in their environment can effect other creatures.

The Drawbacks of a Class Pet

While class pets can be a great teaching tool, they can also be a huge distraction. For students with attention and focusing needs, class pets can provide too much stimulation and distract them from their work. Some students, especially those in early elementary grades, may not be mature enough to care for a class pet. That puts the responsibility for the animal’s care and upkeep on the teacher. Even if students are mature enough, the issue of everyday care, as well as weekend, holiday and summer break care, will need to be addressed. Class pets can also be messy, smelly and pose the risk of injury or infection. While a small lizard may seem harmless, the potential for salmonella is ever present. Be sure to research the risks of the pets that you are considering to make sure that the one you choose is the best option for your class.

Tattling Turtle Kit

Alternatives to Traditional Class Pets

If your school is one of the many who no longer allow living animals as class pets, there are still some options. You can designate a stuffed animal, like Sheldon the Sheep or the Tattling Turtle, as your class’ pet. While care issues are not much of a concern, the accessibility to these stuffed animals is much greater for the students. You can still assign a “weekend parent” who takes him home on Friday. Your students’ parents will probably be much happier to host a stuffed turtle for the weekend than they would a live one. Another option is to adopt an animal from a local zoo. If you live near a large zoo, chances are that they offer adoption programs and have some of their animals on live streaming video. This is a great alternative, especially if your class will be taking a trip to the zoo at the end of the school year.

Class pets are definitely not for everyone, but they can provide a great learning opportunity for those classrooms who are mature enough to handle them. How do you deal with the topic of class pets in your classroom and school? Are there restrictions on the types of animals you can have, if any? Let us know how classroom pets impact your teaching and your students’ learning by leaving a comment below.

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