Bringing a Pet into Your Classroom: How to Ease the Transition for Both the Pet and Your Students
From geckos to hamsters to turtles, classroom pets offer powerful learning opportunities for children and can boost their happiness and engagement at school. However, when bringing a pet into your classroom, it’s important to take certain steps to protect the needs of both the animal and your students. Here are a few ideas for ensuring a safe and stress-free transition as you welcome your new classroom pet:
- Before acquiring your pet, involve students in the planning process. Have them research different types of animals and vote on which one they think would be the right fit for your class. Teach the kids that depending on their species, animals have different temperaments and needs when it comes to feeding, play time, and habitats, so choosing one that is appropriate for the age and energy levels of your class is essential. In addition, have students research what is involved in caring for a pet and start planning how they will share responsibilities. Pets in the Classroom offers pet care sheets (https://www.petsintheclassroom.org/pet-care-sheets/) for different types of animals and other helpful resources!
- When the time comes to adopt or purchase your pet, be sure to use a reliable source that maintains animals in clean, spacious habitats. Look for healthy, alert animals with no noticeable health problems. For example, stay away from poor critters that have visible wounds, seem lethargic, or are scratching themselves excessively. This will help ensure that your pet will be healthy and ready to receive attention from a classroom of curious kids.
- If you already have a pet in your classroom, keep your new addition separate for at least a week. Moving to a new environment can be stressful for animals, so it’s important to make any introductions gradually. Keep an eye on your pet for any signs of distress and make sure that it is staying hydrated and well-fed.
- To minimize stress on the pet, limit activity and handling during its first few weeks in the classroom. Start by having students simply observe the pet in its habitat, and then, if appropriate, progress to gentle petting. Teach the kids that animals may scratch or bite when they are scared, so they must move slowly and carefully whenever they handle the pet. Emphasize the importance of being gentle, speaking softly, and respecting the animal’s boundaries.
By taking a few simple precautions, the process of introducing a pet into your classroom can be a safe, fun, and interactive learning experience for students. At Pets in the Classroom, our mission is to provide school-aged children with the opportunity to interact with a classroom pet—an experience that can have a positive impact on their lives for years to come. Wondering whether you qualify for financial assistance for the purchase and care of a classroom pet? Visit our online grant application (https://www.petsintheclassroom.org/grant-app/) to get started!