Classroom dynamics can be difficult for any teacher. But the best teachers work hard to better the classroom environment and cultivate a love for learning. Take Kristin Shanley. She teaches 18 different science classes a week for ages ranging from Pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade at Bethune Community School in North Minneapolis. With a majority of the students coming from difficult home lives and some even being homeless, Shanley works hard to foster a warm and welcoming classroom environment. And one way she does this is with two guinea pigs – her classroom pets.
“Most of my students live in North Minneapolis and have difficult home lives,” said Shanley. “Over 30% of them are technically homeless and 100% of them participate in the free lunch program. We see a high number of behavioral issues as a result of their non-school lives and it can be very difficult. But when Cuddles and Bubbles joined our classroom, these two little creatures made a world of difference.”
Shanley decided to try classroom pets after her mentor told her about Pets in the Classroom, a grant program that provides teachers with financial support to purchase and maintain classroom pets. The program, which has provided over 39,000 grants to elementary and middle schools, was established to provide children with an opportunity to interact with pets—an experience that can help to shape their lives for years to come. And after introducing a pet into her classroom, Shanley has seen the evidence of it.
“All of the students want to pet, hold, feed, and observe the guinea pigs so we have to take turns. It’s been incredible to watch them learn responsibility and compassion and to observe the thriving atmosphere of a safe, warm, and inviting classroom due to these two little pets.”
To learn more about The Pets in the Classroom grant program visit www.petsintheclassroom.org.