It is amazing what can be learned through classroom pets.  Take the students at Cooper Middle School.  Through their teacher Carol Mickus, the Science/STEM Educator, the  students learned some fascinating lessons through their saltwater tank and a lesson plan called “Coral Reefs in the Classroom.”

“Our saltwater tank project has truly been a great way to teach the water topics in all four grades, fifth through eighth,” said Mickus.  “Students get many opportunities to measure salinity, work on their understanding of density and buoyancy.  Students are also able to understand the relationships between predator, prey, consumer, producers, and decomposers in a real world situation.  The tanks and the animals bring the content to life. “

Ms. Mickus’s lesson plan was chosen as the winner of the 6th to 8th grade category of the  Pets in the Classroom Curriculum Contest.

In addition to her saltwater tank, Ms. Mickus, who was named the Middle Grades Teacher of the Year for the Cobb County School District, has a leopard gecko and three fish tanks with a mixture of bottom feeders, guppies, and tetras. And her incorporation of classroom pets have really made an impact in her classroom:

“The pets add warmth, life, and empathy into the classroom environment,” commented Mickus.  “Students in urban areas do not always have pets at home.  They can be totally apathetic in their interactions with other students and educators, but when they see the gecko grabbing at crickets or get a chance to feed the coral in the salt water tank they suddenly become human.  They may not get to have a pet outside of the school, the pets in our classroom provides each of them an opportunity to think about caring for something other than themselves.”

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