We want to introduce you to a new monthly feature from Pets in the Classroom!  We continually hear from teachers who share their stories and experiences with us, and we decided we should share their experiences and wisdom with you! Each month, we will do a short Q&A interview with a teacher and share information that we think you might find helpful!

This month, meet Bobbi VanWormer, a 1st grade teacher in Battle Creek, MI. Ms. VanWormer has had her leopard gecko, Edison, for 8 years!

Why did you decide to get a classroom pet?

I truly believe that the best way for children to learn, is to do. So to learn responsibility by being responsible for another living thing is an amazing experience.

How do you use your classroom pet to facilitate learning?

Edison helps my students learn about what living things need to survive. By having students help care for him, they soon discover that water and food need not just to be put in his habitat but also maintained. Having a class pet also helps students in having empathy for another living thing. The question is often asked, “How do you think Edison might feel about that?” when it comes to noise level or quick movements past his terrarium.

What is your favorite thing about having a classroom pet?

Edison’s personality…when his water is low he will lay in his dish like he is sun bathing and when I walk over to his cage he looks at me, like, “Ahem…hello…this should be done already.” And if he’s bored, he will try to climb up the glass, indicating to me he wants his room rearranged.

Do you have any stories you want to share with us about Edison and your students?

Working in an inner-city school has many challenges and students bring a lot of baggage with them into the classroom. This was no different a few years ago with one young boy. He would cause disruptions in class by being out of his seat during work time, shouting out, and often arguing or fight with other students and adults. When Edison was brought into the classroom (I never bring him the first few weeks), this student was extremely interested. Asked a LOT of questions, “What kind of lizard is that? What does he eat? Where is he from? Why does he lick his eyes? What are those holes on his head? Why is his tail so fat? There are more holes under his arms!” and many more. I asked him if he would like to be in charge of feeding and watering Edison. His first question after that was, “Will he bite me?” I picked up Edison, showed the student that he does not bite as long as you’re calm, quiet, and careful. That young man helped me feed and water Edison for the next few months, and all of a sudden…no more disruptions…no more arguing…no more fighting.

What advice do you have for teachers who are thinking of getting a classroom pet? Go for it! It’s not another thing for the teacher to do…it’s an opportunity to help your students learn so much in such a genuine way.

Do you have any tips on caring for your classroom pet?

Put the kids in charge…if you can’t have the students do the feeding, watering, and cleaning, let them tell you when the pet needs something. Have students observe EVERY DAY! They…meaning the pets AND the students…can do so many different things each day, you wouldn’t want to miss it.

 

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