I had been wanting to get a pet for my third grade classroom the entire year, and was torn between which pet would be best suited for my students and our classroom environment. I was just about set on getting two rats for my classroom, mostly due to their intelligenence and social, friendly disposition. Prior to my decision, I had applied for a grant through PetSmart that allowed me to get the animal at half price, along with $75 towards supplies. Once I was accepted for the grant, I decided to jump on the chance of getting a class pet!
When I walked into PetSmart and looked at their selection, I was sad to see that they didn’t have any rats at the time. An employee came up to me and asked if I needed any help. When I explained the situation, she told me that with young children, she would actually suggest a Guinea pig, as rats sleep most of the day and are better suited for older kids. This really made me think about my options. I wanted to do what was best for my 22 eight and nine year old kiddos. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any Guinea pigs at PetSmart either. However, I purchased a cage, food, and bedding with my grant money and made the drive over to Petco to look at their selection.
When I saw her, I instantly fell in love. She was a calico baby Guinea pig and was the sweetest animal I had ever held or played with. I decided she was the one for my classroom and took her home.
On Monday morning, my students came into the classroom as normal. They glanced over and saw the cage, and their mouths hung open at the cutie inside! They were so excited to have this new addition to the classroom. They asked her name, which was a moniker for the main female character in The BFG, which we had just finished reading. My students couldn’t contain their excitement all day, and were beaming from ear to ear.
Sophie has been inhabiting our classroom for about a month now. Some things I have noticed about having a classroom pet:
- She has served as a phenomenal motivator to getting work done and staying on task. When free time is available, my students are able to hold her quietly at their desks.
My third graders have come up with (entirely on their own accord) their own time management system. They each get to hold her for two minutes exactly when work has been completed. The students keep track of the time on their own and pass her off with no stress. This has brought about a sense of comaradery and strengthened their time-telling abilities.
Sophie has given my students the opportunity to be responsible. Each week, we have a new zookeeper that feeds her each morning, fills up her water, gives her treats, and cleans her cage every Friday, with my assistance. They do not need reminders from me, and are excited to share responsibility. My students look forward to being able to be the zookeeper each week!
She has helped my students learn how to be more gentle and calm. If they are rough with her, she gives a nip on the fingers. They’ve learned how to handle her and care for her gently. I have seen such sweetness in each of my students while they hold and play with her.
Lastly, and most importantly, Sophie has helped a couple of my students that are on the autism spectrum. While holding her, they open up completely and are happier than I’ve ever seen them before. She has helped them excel in the classroom and feel more at home.
I would encourage every teacher to get some sort of classroom pet. The benefits that they bring greatly outweigh hauling cages and pets home on the weekends and holidays. My students adore her, and are ecstatic to come back on Monday to get to spend time with her. Sophie has added so much to our classroom environment, and I love her fiercely for these benefits.
Update: In my first post, I didn’t mention that Petco used my half-off coupon for my Guinea pig, even though it was directly for PetSmart.