Animal loving teachers have long been bringing animals into the classroom to teach their students empathy, responsibility, and how to properly interact with animals. And while this may sound like a good idea in theory, in reality, experts say classrooms may not make the best homes for animals.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the largest animal protection organization in the country, warns that, “Busy, noisy classrooms can be stressful, and small animals can be very adept at hiding symptoms of illness or injury (a lifesaving attribute when trying to avoid predators in the wild, but less than ideal in a setting where children are present). Even accidental rough handling can cause an otherwise social animal to become timid and defensive.”
In addition, HSUS notes that small animals still need a lot of room to move around and classrooms may not have enough space for appropriately sized habitats. There is also the issue of teachers and students only being in classrooms for around eight hours five days a week. Many animals require fresh fruits and vegetables daily, and without being present for the majority of the day, teachers might also not be available when an animal shows signs of needing veterinary care.
With those concerns in mind, we thought we would put together a list of fun alternatives to keeping animals in the classroom.
Visit an Animal Shelter
Visiting an animal shelter not only introduces children to animals, it also helps them learn about companion animal overpopulation, adoption, and spay/neuter.
Make Toys for Homeless Animals
After teaching kids about shelter animals show students how to make toys for homeless dogs and cats to make their time at the shelter a bit easier while they wait for their forever homes. Check out this easy activity for making cat toys.
Bring in a Canine Visitor
Many animal shelters know that it can be expensive or difficult to bring kids to a rescue facility. As a solution, many organizations opt to bring an animal to the kids. Dogs and cats who like crowds and a lot of interaction are chosen to be animal ambassadors ensuring that both kids and the animals have a great time.
Go for a Nature Walk
There is no better way to learn about wildlife than to head out into the wild. Don’t have any big natural spaces nearby? Even small patches of trees and meadows can be teeming with life, from insects to squirrels to birds.
Go Bird Watching
Bird watching is a favorite pastime for adults and kids across the world. Teach your students about native birds who live in your area and then go out and see how many you can spot. Bird watching is also a great alternative to hatching chicks in the classroom. Another great alternative to hatching real chicks is buying a one time Chick Life Cycle Exploration Set, appropriate for ages 5 and up.