Having a pet at home is beneficial for children to learn responsibility, helps teach about caring for the needs of another being, and is a morale booster. This same thing can occur in the classroom. In fact, having pets in the classroom can be an attendence booster, increase a love of learning, and be a stress reliever. I carry these lessons and benefits with me to this day!
I remember not being particularly fond of my science teacher, because I thought he was strange, and the fact that he was scamming on my bus driver was just too much for my junior high mind to comprehend. But as soon as he installed a fish tank in the classroom, suddenly we had something to talk about, and having living creatures to look forward to made the prospect of enduring rude peers much less of an issue. I loved having something to focus on that was peaceful and somehow removed from junior high drama!
Suddenly, I wanted to know more about all animals and their care needs. And I got quite good at it. So good, in fact, that I nurtured my own “feeder” goldfish acquired in 6th grade through college and several years beyond. I even had a fish show up on my porch in a jar with a note of relinquishment!
Growing up with pets provided a tremendous amount of benefit in the area of nurturing and care, but coupling the human-animal bond in the classroom experience broadened my view to include wanting to understand their biologic needs and anatomy. It increased my level of curiosity, wonder, and elevated my interest and appreciation for the complexities of life as a whole.
According to PetsInTheClassroom.org,
- Even kids with no exposure to animals or nature in their home environment can see, feel, touch and make connections to the wide world of animals.
- Observing and caring for an animal instills a sense of responsibility and respect for life.
- A pet brings increased sensitivity and awareness of the feelings and needs of others—both animals and humans.
- Kids learn that all living things need more than just food and water for survival.
- Students will see directly how their behavior and actions affect others.
- Studies show that the presence of animals tends to lessen tension in the classroom.
In fact, their website believes so strongly in the benefits of companion animals in the classroom, that they have established a trust fund to provide grants to teachers to make it possible for them to afford a classroom pet. New applicants can apply beginning on August 1, 2012. To donate, go to http://www.petsintheclassroom.org/donations/.
As a shy student who wanted to slip through the cracks, this kind of program helped ease me through the awkward junior high years. And the skills I learned helped me nurture my own children and a multitude of other animals. Eventually, I even became gainfully employed because of my cultivated love of animals!
How have animals helped and taught you or your children?
Classroom rat photo by John Morgan.