Pets in the Classroom: A New Kind of Education

By Karin Krisher

Raise your hand if you would have loved to have a classroom pet as a kid. Mine’s reaching for the sky.
Sure, I’ve had one before. In 7th grade, we had a snake—and that terrified me. I much would have preferred a hamster.

Today, one nonprofit has seen the power companion animals can have on the elementary school experience, and aims to place a pet in every classroom with a funds initiative.

The Pet Care Trust is offering grants to teachers that hope to bring small animals into the classroom, where they will teach children to care for them responsibly and to form emotional bonds with the pets. Over 16,000 “Pets in the Classroom” grants have been issued since January 2010. Petsintheclassroom.com boasts a huge impact: an estimated 811,300 students have experienced the programs’ effects.

You and I know how important human/animal interaction is—after all, we’re already in the pet-loving community. But so many young people aren’t given the opportunity to be a part of a healthy relationship with a pet. Pets in the Classroom grants (and the Pet Care Trust’s many initiatives) can change that.

When children have pets or an opportunity to care for them, beautiful truths emerge. Pets enrich our everyday experiences—including learning. The hundreds of emotional benefits of caring for a pet include: a newfound sense of responsibility, a sense of respect, increased sensitivity and empathy, and a clear understanding of cause and effect relation between behavior and consequence.

The Pet Care Trust notes studies that show the presence of animals may also have a positive effect on tension in the classroom. That’s likely because pets truly have no agenda (aside from basic survival). In a scenario where many of us have felt normal childhood pressures (to conform, to obey, to learn), pets can ease the load.

What do you think about pets in the classroom? Have you ever had a pet in your class? Tell us all about it on our Facebook page!