Last summer I decided that I wanted to have a classroom pet this year, so I started researching like a mad woman. What type of animal could I get? Would my principal approve? How much would it cost me to get started? In all of my research I came across the Pets in the Classroom Grant that helped answer many of my questions.
What type of animal?
If you walk into a pet store, you are sure to be greeted by a number of different animals, but which ones make good classroom pets? Pets in the Classroom offers around 14 different pets as options. They have classified the pets that are available into three categories based on level of care required: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
- Beginners: hamster, gerbil, rat, mouse, freshwater fish, or hermit crab.
- Intermediate: guinea pig, parakeet, bearded dragon, leopard gecko, or snake.
- Advanced: conure, chinchilla, or rabbit.
My advice is to pick one that is least likely to cause allergy issues. Unfortunately, that does narrow the choices down a lot. However, it almost guarantees you won’t have to unexpectedly make your classroom pet, your at home only pet. It also makes it a little easier to pitch the idea to your principal 😉
So, what did I choose?
I bounced back and forth between fish and a bearded dragon, but ultimately I chose a bearded dragon. I decided to not get fish because changing water wasn’t going to be very easy in my room, as I do not have a sink. More importantly though, I decided that my students would be more excited about a bearded dragon than a fish. I was right! My students LOVE our bearded dragon and they have gained so many skills by helping to take care of him.
My students learned…
- Respect: My students have learned respect for adults, peers, and animals. Students know that they will not be allowed to help or interact with Odin (our bearded dragon) unless they are respectful to adults, peers, and of course Odin. Throughout the year, I have seen an increase in respect as a whole.
- Leadership: Many students have stepped up to take the lead in caring for Odin.
- Teamwork: The students that took the lead in caring for Odin had to determine how they could work as a team with others to provide for Odin.
- Problem Solving Skills: In the beginning, some students were more possessive than others and it took problem solving skills to come to a solution. The students worked together to create a schedule for care and create new jobs related to care.
Bonuses of a Classroom Pet
- Motivation: One reason I wanted a classroom pet in the first place was to have a source of motivation for my students. I wanted to provide something that they thought was “cool” and worth working for. Odin has been a wonderful source of motivation, even for students that don’t necessarily care to touch/interact with him.
- Calming: We all know that petting a dog or a cat can lower blood pressure and relieve stress. I personally find gazing into a fish tank relaxing and calming. When students are upset they simply watch Odin, or lightly stroke his back. Check out my post Creating a Calming Classroom Environment for other ways you can create a calming environment in your classroom.
How much does it cost?
I was able to get a complete 40 gallon tank set up for FREE plus an additional coupon for a $ amount off of the bearded dragon with the Pets in the Classroom Grant. Now, this does NOT mean that I didn’t spend money out of pocket, because I spent a lot of money out of pocket, buying additional decor for the tank, extra lighting, and an additional tank (because I needed to be able to have somewhere to house my bearded dragon on long weekends and vacations from school). Your costs will vary depending on the animal you choose and the store you utilize. I would encourage you to check out the “Choose your grant” section below to see sample coupons before making a final decision.
Ready to apply? Here’s how…
- Check your eligibility: If you are a public or private school teacher for Pre-K through 9th grade in the US or Canada you are eligible.
- Choose your pet: I suggest doing ample research to determine the needs for the pet you decide on. Learn as much about what supplies you will need, how to care for your pet, and what ongoing expenses you will incur.
- Choose your grant: There are a number of pet stores that participate in the program. Choose the grant for the store of your choice. If you have multiple stores nearby I would suggest looking at the sample coupons to compare what each store offers before making a decision.
*Please make sure you check with your principal prior to applying for the grant.