Classroom Pets

I have always had a classroom pet, of some description, while teaching students. Why? I personally feel that it teaches students a degree of responsibility and life skills that are important for them to have if we expect them to grow into thinking adults.

Over the years I have had frogs and fish as my main classroom pets. As a student myself I vividly remember my grade 2 teacher having a pet axolotls in the classroom - we were so enthralled by them but cutting up the meat was a little icky (but we loved it anyway). Another teacher I remember has silkworms - though only a couple of us got to have the silk (we were never told the truth about the poor moth!). Overall though I have grown up to love animals and be a responsible pet owner. Unlike other children though I was fortunate to also have pets at home (including a fish, mouse and cats).

When introducing a pet to the classroom it is important to have a discussion with the class about being responsible. It is not enough to put a fish in the tank and think all students will treat it with respect (even with discussions I had one kids put Blu-Tac in the fish tank - the fish survived but he had to wait two terms to earn the privilege of looking after the fish for a week.

Grade 3 example of independent information report
It is important if you have a class pet to make sure that certain types are secured. After the fish incident I made sure the tanks had a lock - this is even more pressing if you animal can be dangerous.

Grade 3 example of frog information report - close-up
One of the ways I like to introduce a new pet is to get the students to do a basic information report. I get to see how they layout their work, handwriting, research skills (quick way to identify plagiarism!), and presentation. I do not allow for the work to be typed - it must be completed by hand so they can demonstrate all of the skills. Students are given one library lesson and two class lessons (at the end of a week - mainly for presentation work). The rest they must to in their own time and provide a bibliography (a great way to identify who gets the parent to do all the work).

One other task is that everyone who successfully completes the report can submit an idea for naming the animal.

In regards to the example, I was teaching a grade 3 class and we had just gotten a frog (who lives happily the rest of the time in my lounge room). This was the work completed by the student, Rachel, who also named the frog. She chose the name Tooantuh as she had researched on the internet for words that meant frog in other languages.

Classroom pets I recommend are...
* fish
* frogs
* lizards
* stick insects
* hermit crabs
* scorpion (be careful of what species)
* turtles (if you have space and a large enough tank)

Frog Graphic (c) MyCuteGraphics

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