Kids love furry creatures big and small. Beyond the cuteness factor, pets help kids be empathetic, teach responsibility, and feel comforted during stressful times. Plus, animals are just fun to be around!
Let’s look at a few of the advantages of having a pet companion in a school environment and some of the disadvantages that sometimes accompany their presence.
Therapy Animals in Schools
It’s been long touted that therapy animals help developmentally challenged children learn better and feel more at ease in the classroom. It’s exciting to watch growth transpire from interactions between animals and students.
There’s also evidence that ALL kids can benefit from four-legged friends. According to an article on parents.com, children were asked to read in front of an adult, a classmate, and a dog. Not surprisingly, the kids in the study were most relaxed around the dog.
“If you’re struggling to read and someone says, ‘Time to pick up your book and work,’ that’s not a very attractive offer,” says Mary Jalongo, author of The World of Children and Their Companion Animals. “Curling up with a dog or cat, on the other hand, is a lot more appealing.”
Cuddling and reading out loud to your dog at home is probably pretty comforting and good practice, too. Science also supports that dogs even make the best sleep partners.
Animals in the classroom (bunnies, fish and hamsters, for example) also provide a learning opportunity for students. All kinds of animals teach humans about socialization, behavior, diet, etc. and can be incorporated into science and math lessons. There are tangible things to learn about animal environments.
In addition, kids can experience their own personal growth. A positive classroom environment involving animals “helps children feel safe, secure and valued,” according to Dr. Sheryl Reinisch, director of Early Childhood Education Programs at Concordia University-Portland. “As a result, self-esteem increases, and students are motivated to engage in the learning process.”
Teachers have also noticed that shier kids are brought out of their shells and will interact with others in their spare time. They share stories, laugh, and just bond over the animal. The class guinea pig is the best “peacemaker and behavior manager ever,” says 4th grade teacher Brianna Cecil.
Let’s keep in mind that animals in the classroom aren’t only for fun. They need to enhance the objectives of a teacher’s class.
Considerations need to be taken into account before bringing a furry classmate into the class. Kids not only need to be taught good manners around classroom animals, they need to be safe.
There’s always potential of injury or infection. Lizards, for example, could potentially carry salmonella. Who knew? Be sure to do an adequate amount of research on the risk animals pose before bringing them into the classroom.
Teachers need to be aware that some kids are allergic to dogs, hamsters or gerbils, to name a few.
Class pets can present a distraction for some students, the opposite of what’s intended in the learning environment especially in those early elementary grades when attention spans tend to be short anyway.
As you can see, there are many life lessons to be learned by bringing in animals into classrooms. While it is a big commitment, students can benefit and enjoy the process with proper guidance, and bring a fun, new experience into what can otherwise be a mundane day.
Noah Yarnol Rue is always looking where his next trip will take him . When he’s not traveling the world, he’s writing articles on the new things he learns. Noah also enjoys a good meme from time to time. You can find Noah on LinkedIn.