What can children learn from pets in the classroom? The first thing you may have in mind is why have pets in the classroom. Then you may have reservations that pets in the classroom may be a distraction more than a positive learning experience. Lastly, you may also wonder if pets in the classroom will bring about illnesses among the children. Having pets in the classroom is a learning journey that many children will otherwise not have in an urbanised environment. You will certainly want to have pets in the classroom after considering the following advantages.
Advantages of having pets in the classroom are plenty. Those without space or time for pets at home can learn to care for pets within the classroom. Children learn to love and not fear animals. They learn about the ways of animals and what scares them. They learn to handle them in a safe way that will not provoke animals into their primal instincts. Children learn to care for pets. They learn about the various things to do as responsible pet owners. Children learn shared responsibility and taking initiative. They learn to care for their pets with their classmates and work out a schedule of duties.
Children learn about animals from first hand experience. They learn to and clean up after their class pets. Children learn to be environmentally friendly. They get to learn about human habits that may be detrimental to the environment. Children learn to be responsible for themselves if they have an allergy to animals. They learn to stay clear of animals that may trigger their allergic reactions. Children learn to be responsible for their classroom and learn to make difficult decisions such as when and how to remove a pet from its environment with minimum harm to itself and the environment.
What animals are considered suitable classroom pets? Suitable classroom pets do not become a health hazard or pose a danger to children when they have to handle them. Suitable classroom pets must be easy to handle, depending on the age of their classroom owners. They also need little maintenance that will not take up too much time in class. They also need to be relatively quiet and not create a din during lesson time and distract the children. They should not occupy to much space in the classroom and be securely kept in their enclosures. These are the more common pets for the classroom.
* Red eared terrapins come in two forms: the mud type meant for large ponds and the smaller ones for aquariums. Be sure to specify which one you want. You do not want to have a sumo terrapin in your small aquarium unless you have a succession plan where its home is concerned. Red earred terrapins are easy to maintain if you have the proper terrapin tank, as well as water filter and air pump affixed to it. Water need only changing once a month with this proper system. As minimal contact and handling is advised, there is little need to touch them. Older terrapins are also fairly intelligent creatures and can be trained to feed out of a food dispenser, so there is little need to move them over weekends. Do be aware that terrapins breathe with lungs, and may drown if they are not provided easily accessible dry landing spots.
* Fish seems an easy classroom pet to have but they may die more easily than terrapins. Depending on the breed, fish need more attention than terrapins. It is best to treat them as short term pets and take them home within two to three weeks in the class as they risk a higher chance of infection and stress., and highly possible death when water is contaminated. Moreover, when given too much food, there may be water contamination due to the uneaten food or fish waste. Hence be very specific as to what you want to teach the children where fish is concerned. Once your objectives have been covered, have the fish taken to a more permanent home.
* Frogs may seem an unlikely pet to keep. They are also difficult to maintain as they love flies. If, however, you are able to maintain a population of flies within the same container, you will have a fairly interesting community to teach food chains and interdependence within the animal kingdom. You will need an air pump, a water area, and an ingenious plan to keep the frog’s supply of insects intact. Thus keeping frogs can be a fun activity that develops the minds of highly potential whiz kids.
* Short term pets such as insects are another viable alternative. You may be able to loan stick insects from local insect breeders or zoos. Mealworm beetle larva are also easy to keep and interesting to study, a great way to teach life cycles.
What do you do with the classroom pets during weekends and long holidays? Leaving them in a locked classroom over the summer break is a highly irresponsible act and will lead to certain death if nobody will look after them. This issue must be thoroughly considered with the students before the pets are brought in. It will teach children to think carefully before they consider keeping a pet back home as well. Here are some alternatives you can consider.
* Roster pets for students to bring home – get written consent from parents before a student is allowed to take a pet home. You do not want the pet to be an unwanted invasion in the home of your students.
* You may want to work with teachers teaching the same level or class with you to share the pets, or intrigue other staff to bring them home. Pets may be passed from one classroom to the next if children ar covering the same syllabuses.
* Giving away your pets to responsible home owners is another possibility. If this is determined before the pet is brought in, the receiver may even become a weekend pet owner. Alternately, get your students to share their famlly pets, if their parents would give them permission to do so.
* Have a school pet center whereby pets can be on loan to classrooms and returned on Fridays. The school can arrange for a janitor to feed the pets at the center on weekends and during school holidays.
What you should not do with unwanted pets in the classroom:
* Do not release them into the wild.
* Do not dump them into public places without authorisation.
* Do not exterminate them.
With everything put in place before the pets are brought into the classroom, students will have a wonderful learning experience taking care of their classroom pets.