There are many different ways a pet can be involved in the school community. Pets in the Classroom’s October Featured Teacher, Kim Messina, a social worker in Tampa, Florida, shared with us how she uses hermit crabs at her school as an attendance incentive. Here’s what she had to say in our interview:
Why did you decide to get a classroom pet?
We decided to utilize the hermit crab as a schoolwide pet for an Attendance Incentive. Younger children love animals and can learn across a variety of curriculum areas as well as within their social/emotional development by taking care of a pet.
Why did you decide to get the type of animal you have?
We explored several of the animals available and agreed to start small. The hermit crab is also a unique pet and so the students could learn a great deal by taking care of him.
Tell us a little bit about your classroom pet:
Mr. Krabs was named by our teaching staff, yet voted on by our students at Open House. He is very quiet, yet the students enjoy being in his presence. Mr. Krabs remains in his habitat (donated through the grant), yet moves to a different class each month based on the highest attendance percentage. Currently he is in a Kindergarten classroom.
How do you use your classroom pet to facilitate learning?
We created a binder which has useful information about hermit crabs and a variety of ideas to implement through their curriculum of reading, writing, math and science. We developed a Student Ambassador program this year as well and one student helps the winning classroom care for him on a daily basis. This has added to our development of leadership skills in students.
What is your favorite thing about having a classroom pet?
Mr. Krabs is an exciting new addition to our school and the students seem very excited to see him and learn about him. We also just bought another hermit crab as they are social creatures. This helps to supplement our work on prosocial skills and the inclusion of others (not being alone). This hermit crab is very active and thus the students will be able to make new observations and increase their learning as they watch them in the same habitat.
What advice do you have for teachers who are thinking of getting a classroom pet?
This program has been amazing from the ease of applying to the grant, to picking up the supplies, to implementing it within the classroom/school setting. Animals in the classroom add an exciting and “out of the box” component to the general education classroom.
If you want to learn more about pets in the classroom, please visit our website, www.petsintheclassroom.org.