Studies indicate that classroom pets may help students improve their skills and engage more effectively with subject matter across a wide variety of disciplines, from reading and writing to art and science. In addition, classroom pets encourage better social skills, greater empathy, and a stronger sense of responsibility, along with an array of other benefits. At Pets in the Classroom, we are committed to helping as many children as possible experience these benefits and supporting teachers as they strive to enrich their curricula through the use of classroom pets. We believe that pets offer a fun, interactive way for kids to learn about the world around them and help them develop a genuine interest in their education.
Wondering how to enhance your students’ educational experiences with classroom pets? Here are a few creative ideas:
- Hold a naming contest as a way to illustrate how voting works in a democracy. When you initially acquire your classroom pet, one of the first steps is to give him or her a name. Involve students in the process by having them submit ideas for your pet’s name and then having the class vote on their favorite name. This will spur students’ creative thinking and can inspire social studies lessons about the principles of voting and the electoral process. Additionally, it can provide a basis for valuable lessons about respecting others’ opinions.
- Have students conduct research about your classroom pet. Arrange a class trip to the library and have students find books—both fiction and non-fiction—that involve animals like your pet, or simply have them search online for information about the specific type of animal and its species. This will build children’s research and reading skills and ignite their interest when they find information that reflects their experiences with the pet.
- Use your pet as a source of inspiration for creative writing. For example, pose the following questions to students as writing prompts: what was the pet’s life like before coming to your classroom? What does the class look like from your pet’s point of view? If you could take the pet on an adventure for the day, where would you go and what would you do together? This will foster students’ imaginations while enhancing their English and writing skills. Alternatively, have your students write persuasive pieces about classroom pets, such as why other classes should or should not get a pet or the pros and cons of a specific type of animal.
- Hone students’ artistic abilities by having them draw pictures of the pet. Expose students to a variety of artistic mediums by providing different materials, such as paint for one picture, crayons for another, and colored pencils for another. Repeat this activity on a regular basis and encourage students to identify changes in the animal as it grows and develops over time.
- After students have completed art or writing projects about the pet, have them present their projects to the class. This will build their public speaking skills in a non-intimidating way as they share a topic familiar to them and their classmates.
- Have students document scientific observations about your pet. Encourage them to make objective observations using their own senses, paying close attention to the animal’s physical characteristics, feeding habits, temperament, habitat, and sleeping patterns, and how these change over time.
These are just a few examples of how classroom pets can engage students of all ages and bring their lessons to life. Our website also hosts numerous downloadable lesson plans for your use: https://www.petsintheclassroom.org/pets-in-the-classroom-teacher-lesson-plans/?agreement=.
As part of our mission to extend the benefits of classroom pets to children across the U.S. and Canada, Pets in the Classroom provides grants to pre-K through 9th-grade teachers for the purchase and care of a pet. Find out if you qualify and fill out an application online! (https://www.petsintheclassroom.org/grant-app/)