Pets in the classroom can be a troublesome matter. They are great for children to learn about caring for animals, about respect for all creatures, about introducing fun ways to learn about subjects like mathematics, geography and more. But it is not just the emotional and educational development of children that pets impact on, children from homes with pets have been shown to have stronger immune systems and, on average (following from this), have far fewer sick days from school.
The tough part about having school pets is deciding what type is most suitable for the classroom environment. A boa constrictor is definitely not a suitable pet, neither is pit bull terror (we are certain the Department of Education might have something to say about them), you need to find an animal that is social, happy to be handled by children and easy to care for. So, what are your options when it comes to choosing a suitable, sensible and beneficial animal for learning and development? As experts in education recruitment, we like to keep on top of the important issues, so here is our guide to the most suitable pets for the learning environment:
Rabbits are incredibly social and tolerant creatures. They thrive with others around them (rabbits or people) and are happy to be handled by children, but they need space to run about and exercise. Being caged throughout the day will not make for a happy bunny.
Rabbits are easy to litter-box train, making the routine of cleaning their surroundings that much easier. The downside to rabbits is that they are naturally active at dawn and dusk, so if they look a little sleepy throughout the day, do not be surprised.
Guinea pigs, like rabbits, are very social animals and you would have little problem with one interacting with children. That said, they also like the company of other guinea pigs and so it would be advisable to have two to ensure you have an untroubled pet.
A guinea pig’s diet is very important. High fibre (hay) and vitamin rich treats (occasionally) will allow you to maintain a healthy, content critter. As long as they are handled calmly and affectionately, you will not go wrong with a guinea pig as a classroom pet.
If you can get past the reputation that is associated with rats, a rat in the classroom is one of the most rewarding pets you can choose. They are friendly, happy to be handled, intelligent, clean and a well-kept rat will live for up to two years.
Rats can be trained to stand, sit and perform other tricks, making them excellent animals for children to interact with. A rat needs to be stimulated so make sure you have a wheel and other toys to keep them occupied. They do not require the space of a guinea pig or rabbit and, although nocturnal, they do not mind attention in daylight hours.
Whatever pet you decide on, you know the children in your school best and so the choice you make will be the correct one. You must ensure that your pet is integrated into the classroom environment before the children arrive and given time to adapt to their new surroundings. Even better is to allow the pet time to adapt to you by living with it in your home for a couple of weeks first – you will then get to know the “personality” of the pet – before letting it loose on your pupils.