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21Aug2014

Character Education through Classroom Pets

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Pets in the Classroom

 

Teachers today have an important responsibility.  Not only does their job require educating their students’ minds, but they also play a very important role in educating their students’ hearts. When children learn how to be responsible, how to empathize, and how to care for others, when they have their self-esteem built up, and when they have an advocate, a friend to confide in, they will thrive.

 

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So how can teachers, who have so much responsibility and often with so few resources, help nurture these traits in their students?  One way is through classroom pets.  The Pets in the Classroom grant program, a program that provides pre-k through 8th grade teachers with financial support to help purchase and maintain classroom pets, understands the importance of classroom pets and has seen the evidence, both in research and through teachers’  experiences, that small animals can provide numerous benefits in the classroom and have a lasting impact on the students. 

 

Take the 4th grade class at Global Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  Their Leopard Gecko helped students become more compassionate and also helped improve kids’ test scores, according to teacher Linda Graham:

 

classroom per CarlHe has helped our classroom be more gentle and compassionate. They hold him a few hours a day and take such care and responsibility towards him.

 

On a daily basis, they read to him. There are students who don’t like testing. They’re some of the top students, but when you put a test in front of them, their mind goes blank. I found when I let them hold Carl; it gives them a positive distraction. When they do get stressed out, they talk to him, or they’ll hold him or put him on the desk and make him turn around.

 

Or how about the 2nd grade class at Success Mile Charter Academy near Detroit, Michigan?  Their teacher, Miss Jobak, commented:

 

The kids have been doing a WONDERFUL job taking care of our leopard gecko.  They have really shown great responsibility in the way they care for the pet, as well as how they keep each other in check.  One student might say “Hey! You’re talking too loud next to his cage, Leo doesn’t like that!”  Or, “Miss Jobak, it looks like his mealworms are dead and he won’t eat dead mealworms.”  They have really grasped the concepts of taking care of the gecko and being responsible for him.  

 

Then there are the students of Bethune Community School in North Minneapolis, whose science teacher, Ms. Shanley, brought two guinea pigs into her classroom:

 

classroom guinea pigFirst let me begin by telling you about my students. They live in north Minneapolis. Nearly 30% are labeled homeless or highly mobile. We are a 100% free and reduced lunch school. We have a high number of students with severe behavioral problems. These students have dealt with things you and I will thankfully never have to. These two little creatures have made a world of difference.

 

It’s been incredible to watch my students learn responsibility and compassion and to observe the thriving atmosphere of a safe, warm, and inviting classroom due to these two little pets.

 

And finally, Kym Eisgruber, Principal at Mableton Elementary School, wrote:

 

The students have learned how to take care of our new friends.  They are also a lot of fun to observe and to make ongoing journals of the sort of characteristics that are unique to Chinchillas. They also have helped in many discipline situations to cools some students’ emotional outbursts down to a low as they are intrigued with the school pet…. We at Mableton Elementary School believe that this investment in our children’s future will be repaid many times over in the years ahead.

 

Through classroom pets, many students have learned valuable lessons, lessons that don’t often come through traditional lesson plans. This is why the Pets in the Classroom grant program has the goal of helping introducing 5 million children in 100,000 classrooms to pets and the benefits they provide. Through the grant program, the organization hopes that teachers who are interested in introducing a classroom pet will be financially able to do so.

 

For more information on the benefits of classroom pets or on the Pets in the Classroom grant program, please visit www.petsintheclassroom.org.

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