“If there is one thing that is most important for children to realise, it is that they share a world with other beings who have needs similar but not identical to theirs. This understanding helps to develop the child’s confidence, empathy and respect for others”
Animals fascinate children. Recent studies have shown that this fascination can have many surprising therapeutic and educational benefits.
School pets have been found to:-
- Motivate pupils to think and to learn, as children have a high level of natural interest, enthusiasm and enjoyment of animals
- Have a calming effect on pupils, improving behaviour and concentration, reducing stress and improving self-esteem
- Encouraging expression and participation in more withdrawn children
- Encourage a respect and reverence for life in pupils and thereby improve their relationships with other pupils, parents and teachers
- Foster a sense of responsibility in children
- Teach children to nurture and respect life
- lead to development of hobbies/careers in animal care
- Having animals in schools Improve academic achievement
Several surveys have been completed by teachers focusing on the effects of having pets in the class. The findings are below:_
- Wonderful source of happiness and inspiration
- Motivating for children – brings enthusiasm
- Improved learning experiences in the curriculum
- Tactile and visual connection to the natural world
- Observing and caring for animals instills a sense of responsibility
- Teaches a respect for life
- Active participation for the group creating social bonds
- Increased sensitivity and awareness of other living things
- Teaches the understanding that life forms need specific things to survive
- Less tension in the classroom
- Provides the opportunity to touch and observe new animals
- Some children can teach other classes and create presentations about the animals
- Teaches compassion
- Practice shared responsibility and care schedules
- Increased social skills and emotional stability
- Can be a positive reinforcer
Here at Christ Church SW9
- Children are encouraged to take a shared responsibility for the care of the animals, under direct supervision.
- They are only be given tasks appropriate to their ability. Encouragement and praise are important, children must be helped not to fail, or feel inadequate in their pet care duties.
- Standards of care are very high as- children learn through observation.
- What if the pet is ill?
There must be total commitment to any animal that becomes ill. Sometimes the economic value of animals can be less than the cost of veterinary treatment; but animals should never be euthanized to cut costs. If animals are hospitalized during treatment, frequent progress reports should be given to the children. Children identify very closely with animals and the purpose of pet keeping is to instil a sense of responsibility and teach them how to care
- What if the pet dies?
The death of a pet provides an opportunity to discuss death and dying. Many children will have experienced pet loss and some the loss of relatives. Discussion about pet loss should be encouraged. Do not to refer to euthanasia as “putting to sleep” or “being given an anesthetic” or children may develop fear of sleep or anesthesia.
- Can pets cause health problems?
Possible hazards include zoonosis, allergies and injuries. These will be minimized through the adoption of a planned pet keeping policy. Long-term studies have shown that the incidence of such problems is very low.
- Most infections that can be acquired from animals cause minor skin problems. However, healthy animals do not transmit diseases – diseases from other people pose a greater risk
- People with an animal allergy are often only allergic to one species, most commonly cats or rabbits. Rarely, a severe allergy may preclude the presence of an animal in the classroom
- Bites and scratches – sociable animals are not likely to bite or scratch unless frightened or handled roughly. Children should be taught how to gently interact with the animals.