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Classroom Pets Have Educational Value, New Study Finds

Classroom Pets Have Educational Value, New Study Finds

A new study suggests the classroom pet is beneficial beyond the cute factor; having a pet in the classroom may provide real educational value through leadership skills and character building.

The study was published by the American Humane Association in collaboration with the Pet Care Trust and was called "Pets in the Classroom." It featured quantitative survey questions and interviews from 1,200 teachers nationwide to arrive at its findings.

According to a statement from the American Humane Association,

"Between November 2014 and February 2015, teachers who had received a Pet Care Trust grant and had cared for their classroom pet for at least three months were asked to participate in online surveys or phone interviews with American Humane Association researchers with the goal of learning about their experiences to date."

Despite some challenges to owning a classroom pet such as coping with loss and spending out-of-pocket money to care for the pet, the study found six objectives indicating the benefit of caring for a classroom pet, according to the company's statement:

  • To teach children responsibility and leadership via animal care.
  • To teach children compassion, empathy and respect for all living things, including animals, humans, nature, and the world we share.
  • To enhance and enrich a variety of traditional academic lessons, from science to language arts.
  • To provide an avenue for relaxation when children are stressed or when their behavior is unstable and/or challenging to manage (for both typically developing children and those with special needs).
  • To help students feel comfortable and engaged in the classroom and with their peers, so that the school environment is more conducive to quality learning, growth, and social connections.
  • To expose students to new experiences and opportunities (particularly for those who do not have pets of their own), which may translate to a decrease in unfounded fears and biases among children.

The next phase of the research will take a look at the benefit of classroom pets in select U.S. and Canada elementary schools for a controlled period of ten weeks to elaborate further on the first phase's findings.

Many teachers told the study's researchers about the profound impact classroom pets had on their students, especially students in low-income areas who are unable to have pets in their family.

"My school is a non-profit for homeless and low-income families. Our three little frogs have given these underserved children a wealth of love and responsibility," said one teacher.

"Many of my inner city students are unable to have a pet in their home because of apartment complex rules. This grant enables them to learn to care for all living creatures. I am so thankful for this reason," said another.

All in all, teachers said the classroom pet helped students build supportive relationships at school, create pride in the classroom, improve the management of behavioral issues, and more. 

"Phase I of this groundbreaking study confirms our long-held belief in the inherent value of classrooms having a pet," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane Association president and CEO. "We hope through this study to examine and measure the degree to which these animals can help develop young people's academic growth and social and leadership skills, as well as instill in them the vital value of compassion, which will benefit them, the world's animals, and all of us throughout their lives."

Read more about the study here and comment with your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

07/23/2015

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