This month is National Pet Month (1 April- 2 May) and there has been plenty to say about the benefits of having classroom pets and animals in schools. Although the idea of having pets around young children in school is controversial, many studies have revealed that having animals in a school environment can be very beneficial. Is it something that should be incorporated into the school curriculum though?
Having a “classroom pet” creates a new way to learn. Biologically pupils are able to study animal instinct, by watching their survival skills and how they adapt to their environments. An increase in descriptive language is something that can be learned from animals as there are plenty of ways in which the pupils will be able to describe the animal’s behaviour or even what they look like. A great start to lessons incorporating the English language.
It has also been suggested that animals “teach the pupils the way of life”. They are shown what attention animals require from them, enforcing their sense of responsibility and the importance of this.
“A pet brings increased sensitivity and awareness of the feelings and needs of others”
Health wise, there are a lot of benefits that can be gained from having animals as part of the school curriculum. Studies have shown that the attendance of children who have household pets is higher than others. This could be due to the pets helping with building up their immune system, fighting off infection. However, it will be very important to make sure that the animals and their surroundings are kept clean regularly.
“Studies have shown that the presence of animals tends to lessen tension in the classroom”
Kids often run to pets when they are feeling down. The level of companionship will reduce their sense of anxiety and loneliness. It has been proven that 53% of students like doing their homework with a pet around them. I can vouch for this, I managed to get the majority of my university projects done quicker when I worked together with my friend, Hollie! Reducing the sense of anxiousness and loneliness will ensure that there is more motivation in the classroom and therefore increase performance levels. It is a bit like having a mascot at a sports game!
Dr Harvey Markovitch has studied the effects that animals may have on young children in schools. Summing up his arguments for this, he has explained the following:
“Pets in class are good for morale and teach children about relationships and about the needs of another living being- learning to care for a pet helps them to learn how to care for people”
It does of course go without saying that the parents and teachers will have to ensure that the animals and their environments are kept to a hygienic level. Keeping a close eye on each individual student will have to be a priority, in case they are allergic. If having animals as part of your teaching is something that you are looking into, it will be paramount you read through the Animal Research Act (1985).
Although there are a lot of benefits that seem to have been gained from schools having animals as part of a classroom or curriculum, there are factors that can be a disadvantage. Instead of having an animal on school grounds or in the classroom, there are always petting zoos and animal sanctuaries that would be great school excursions, so don’t rule animals out of education!