When it comes to having pets in the classroom, Diane Jones, a Jr. High Science Teacher at St. Louis School in Batesville, Indiana, has experience. This teacher of 21 years has always had pets in her classroom, and currently has two bunnies, two guinea pigs, a chinchilla, and three tanks of fish and frogs. Here’s what she had to say about her experience:
Why did you decide to get a classroom pet?
I have always liked pets. I feel like it is such a learning tool for students. Most students like to play with pets throughout the day in my class. This gives them an opportunity to socialize with students they might not always talk to. I also think the pets are calming for some students and they need that extra attention or something different to think about.
Why did you decide to get the type of animal you have?
I have always had pets in my classroom over my 21 years here at St. Louis. Many pets I inherited from students or former students, so I didn’t get to choose the type of pet I had. So many times, I just want to make sure the pets are being interacted with so I will accept these second hand (inherited) pets. I am not choosy with the type of pet I have. I have tried a wide variety of pets over the years in my classroom. Guinea pigs are my favorite because they are social and very calm so they are a favorite of my students.
Tell us a little bit about your classroom pets:
The bunnies are fairly social and like to hop around the room. They love chew toys and vegetables. The guinea pigs squeak and let me know when they are hungry. Their favorites are kale and carrots. They also love their hay. The chinchilla is older and can be grumpy at times but the girls in class have calmed her down and they cuddle with her often.
How do you use your classroom pet to facilitate learning?
The preschool and younger grades visit often to my classroom. The older students talk to the younger ones about caring for pets and how to handle the pets. This is also an opportunity for the older students to be role models for the younger students. The pets have also been part of our learning about measurement and weight and the scientific method.
What is your favorite thing about having a classroom pet?
Seeing the students interact with the pets and enjoy them as much as I do. Also, I have a student this year that adores one of the pets and is here first thing every morning caring for him. I can tell it makes his day to see the guinea pig.
Did you see an improvement in your classroom due to the classroom pet?
Definitely improvements seen. More social interactions with students that may not usually chat. Some students that are more sensitive have improved due to having that pet to attach to and interact with. Also, the pets have given us opportunities to interact more often with the younger grades.
What advice do you have for teachers who are thinking of getting a classroom pet?
Get something that is calm such as a guinea pig. Get a pet that is low maintenance but can still interact in a positive way with students. Research. Know what you are getting into. Make sure you have all necessary supplies. It is also good to know a small pet veterinarian you can turn to for advice.