The Benefits of Pets in the Classroom
As the new school year gets into full swing, teachers should consider getting a classroom pet. The opportunity to interact and care for pets is an experience children will carry with them, and it may inspire them to get a pet later in life. Pets in the Classroom is an educational grant program that provides financial support to teachers who wish to purchase and maintain small animals in their classrooms.
Classroom pets stimulate learning and can provide a number of new learning opportunities in a classroom. Children can learn about what different animals eat, where they come from, how big they grow and what it takes to properly take care of them, providing lessons in science, geography and math. Kids will come to school with a new enthusiasm for learning, and studies have shown class pets improve attendance and engagement. Stimulants have also been shown to reduce the severity of ADHD symptoms and enhance social skills.
On top of that, pets are beneficial to the emotional and mental growth of children. Pets are shown to encourage nurturing in children, since it teaches them to be careful and kind, as well as provide opportunities to learn turn-taking and responsibility. Studies have shown that animals act as a buffer during stressful situations, which lessens the likelihood of stress-related academic failure. Children without pets at home will have the exposure to animals, and the chance to observe and care for a pet. Pets also improve immune systems in children and can even lower the risk of childhood asthma.
Teachers are eligible for a grant if they teach pre-K to 9th grade in a public or private school in the U.S. or Canada. Only first-time applicants are eligible for the Pets in the Classroom grant, however, previous participants in the grant program are eligible for the Sustaining Grant.
Since grants are not first-come, first-served, it’s recommended teachers wait until a few weeks into the school year before applying for a grant. This prevents the teacher from possibly having to switch animals due to student allergies, as well as lets the children be involved in the decision of which pet they will care for during the school year.
When choosing the right pet, it’s best to consider the care necessary for a certain species, the age of the children who will be handling the pet, and how the pet will be cared for during weekends, summers and holidays. Small animals, such as hamsters, gerbils and rats, as well as fresh water fish, are considered beginner pets, while chinchillas and rabbits are considered advanced. Teachers looking for an intermediate level pet should consider guinea pigs, parakeets or snakes.
No matter which pet is chosen for a classroom, it will surely enrich the lives of the children who get to enjoy its presence and nurture it.