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Animals In The Classroom?
Before bringing a live animal into your classroom, ask yourself these questions:
- Are live animals necessary to achieve the learning objectives I set for my students? Consider field trips to parks and wildlife habitats, guest speakers with "ambassador" animals and the creation of a nature habitat in or around your school.
- Can I ensure consistent, conscientious and compassionate care? Animals will require attention even when they’re not part of your active curriculum.
- Do any of my students have asthma or allergies that would preclude keeping certain animals?
- How will I ensure the health and care of the animal during holidays, breaks, weekends, and at year's end? Every summer, shelters across the country are inundated with hamsters, mice, rabbits, gerbils, fish, guinea pigs and reptiles whose tenure as classroom pets ended unceremoniously.
- What animal is best for my classroom? Learn as much as you can about a prospective pet. For example, is the animal active during the day or at night? If you wake a nocturnal animal such as a hamster, she may bite. How long does he live? Does she like to live singly or in pairs? Can the animal be handled safely?
- How many is too many? Don't increase the population of unwanted pets. Keep social animals in same sex pairs or have them spayed or neutered.
- Can I get any illnesses/diseases/injuries from this animal? Many animals harbor bacteria that can be harmful to humans. Most reptiles and amphibians, for instance, harbor salmonella on their skin. Just handling them can make you sick.
- Discuss the idea with your principal.
- The ultimate responsibility for the animal is yours and includes the cost of care.
- Educate your students about the animal's needs, habits and behaviors.
- Ensure that a proper habitat for the animal is constructed and maintained. Set it up in a place free of drafts, harsh sunlight and high traffic.
- Keep the habitat contained and clean. Discuss the animal's presence with the custodial staff and decide your respective roles and responsibilities. Check on the use of insecticides or other pest control chemicals and cleaning products that may be harmful to the animal.
- Determine who is responsible for the animal on weekends, breaks, holidays and summer vacations ahead of time. Be aware that many public buildings reduce heat and air conditioning after hours and on weekends.
- Make provisions for evacuating the animal in case of fire or other disaster.
- Be prepared to deal with the issue of death and your students' grief should the animal die.