Having a pet in the classroom is a great learning experience for students, parents, and teachers. It is also a huge responsibility for all the parties involved and it’s best to do your research to discover the right type of animal that your classroom can keep happy and healthy!
When considering what kind of pet you should get for your classroom, it’s important to weigh the possible pros and cons of each different animal. Here are several different types of animals with information about their care to aid you in deciding if they would be the right fit for your children and classroom:
Rabbits are generally fond of company, mild-tempered, and curious. They typically make great indoor pets for first time pet owners, as they can be attentive and affectionate. As herbivores, they eat hay, fruits and vegetables. Rabbits, however, are very sensitive to environmental temperatures (ideally about 60-70 degrees) and are known to kick or bite if they are mishhandled; always cradle them like a football. For housing, they require a roomy wire cage that should be cleaned weekly and they are notorious escape artists. They make for entertaining pets and relish the opportunity for exercise, play, and exploration but are best suited to upper elementary grades and above.
Several types of snakes popularly housed in educational classrooms are garter snakes, rat snakes, and corn snakes. Snakes require glass or plexi-glass aquaria that can be easily cleaned every two weeks. As they are shy by nature and like to burrow and hide from view, snakes enjoy an environment rich with items like terra cotta pots, tree bark, and small caves made of rocks that they can retreat into. When holding them, their entire body should be supported to decrease emotional stress. Oftentimes, snakes as classroom pets work well with kids that are big enough to carefully hold the entirety of their bodies. They also require a wide range of food from cockroaches to pre-killed mice! Eeek! Make sure this is something that is discussed with your students beforehand, as it can be a very intense experience.
Guinea pigs are very gentle animals and seldom bite which makes them excellent classroom pets, especially with younger school-aged children. They also have a wide range of vocalizations that reflect their moods and emotions. This can aid in student bonding and interaction. For housing, guinea pigs require substantial room to exercise in. One exciting way for this to be achieved is a series of tubes going around the classroom. For food and drink, guinea pigs can be quite picky eaters but this is easily overcome with feeding hay as 75% of the diet, commercial pelleted guinea pig feed (which will be supplemented with vitamin C) and sipper tubes for water.
Turtles can be fascinating pets if given proper attention. There are many different species and their needs vary greatly. Each unique species has different housing needs with aquatic to semi-aquatic environments. Like snakes, turtles are ectotherms and rely on their external environment to control their body temperature. In the classroom, turtles are very messy eaters and their habitats need to be cleaned frequently. Also another good thing to know is that turtles can live for decades!
The above are a few of the many options when it comes to considering different types of animals for your classroom. Further research should be conducted before making any decisions and definitive information on food and water habits, housing requirements, proper handling, and human health concerns are all topics that should understood before incorporating a pet into the classroom.