When I was in the first grade, our classroom got chickens. I don’t mean large chickens, pecking their way around the classroom eating crayons and shoelaces, but baby chickens: we had an incubator to help hatch the eggs, and then cared for the chicks once they had hatched.
Granted, first grade was a looong time ago for me, but I definitely remember this experience, probably more than almost anything else from elementary school. I remember that one of the chicks died almost immediately. Another – whom we named Fighter – was quite sickly, but managed to hang on for a week or two. He lived in the nurse’s office during the day and we visited him there as a class. Students would each get to take home a chick for one night, until they reached a certain age and then headed off to live on a local farm. Of course, when it was finally my turn to bring a chick home, I was assigned Fighter and obviously (didn’t you see this coming) he died at some point while he was in my care. Oh, the trauma of being a first grader.
Aside from the obvious life lesson, there were a lot of learning opportunities for a classroom of first graders: science, animal care, empathy, respect, and responsibility. PetsintheClassroom is a group that offers grants and resources for teachers who wish to bring pets into their classrooms. Today marks the first day that teachers can apply for a grant for the 2014-15 school year.
The grants offer several different options, including:
Small pets – cute and furry or otherwise, are a popular choice for classrooms. But while they can offer many positive lessons and interactions for your students, having a pet in your classroom may not be all it is cracked up to be. Loud, busy classroom situations may be stressful to small animals, and depending on the age of your students, rough handling may be a problem – even if it is an accident and/or doesn’t happen regularly. Providing a healthy environment and adequate veterinary care for the animal is also something to consider, and can be difficult for classroom situations.
If you end up deciding that having a live pet in your classroom isn’t a great idea, there are still ways to bring knowledge of animals, animal care, and associated sciences into your classroom. The Humane Society has some great recommendations, including: