March 17th, 2005, 10:27 PM
I am a researcher who works with schools on developing innovative programs for children. I am currently working on ideas for teachers on how they can incorporate pets into the classroom.
We have come across programs such as using dogs as reading partners, but we can't find much else. Can anyone share experiences they may have had or something they may have heard of that would help us?
March 18th, 2005, 10:06 AM
HI and welcome! I think it's great to introduce pets to children at an early age. Some kids aren't allowed to have pets at home, and I think it's important they do to teach them a love and compassion for all living things.
Rats are great classroom pets. They are clean, affectionate, and gentle and don't bite. They are very smart and can be taught just about any trick or behavior you can think of.
They need very large cages and lots of stimulation, which a classroom would provide!
Interaction between kids and rats should be carefully supervised of course - for the protection of the rats! ;)
March 18th, 2005, 10:17 AM
I think it's great having pets in the class...but it doesn't always work.
My mother is allergic to almost ALL animals. As a result, she was having constant allergic reactions in class as a child, just from the allergens on other students clothing. She was also allergic to the glue, as it was made from horse hooves.
If any animal is going to be considered in a classroom, allergies must be considered first.
March 18th, 2005, 01:11 PM
I work at a public library where on occasion we host a "Paws for a Story" program. Dogs are a great tool when it comes to literacy in children.
Here's some info I found on it: http://www.cfhs.ca/humaneeducator/HE2004-1/he04-1p5.htm
March 18th, 2005, 01:35 PM
There were two things I have heard of that included dogs in classrooms. One was a traveling family teaching kids about how to handle a dog (their toddler was mauled after he apporached a dog) and the other was a teacher who brought her dog to class every day.
I think there should be a course in every elementary school about animal handling. Like how to approach a dog, how to care for a dog, how to set the limits when playing with a dog (some kids think they are toys that don't experience pain). They taught us first aid for 2 years in elementary school, I think it's time they learned pet safety. The parents around here sure aren't teaching their kids that. They let them come inside the dogs park alone as if it were a petting zoo...
March 18th, 2005, 04:45 PM
I agree with the learning how to handle animals at a young age. There are way too many kids who almost maul our pup, and never ask first. Since she is teething lately, and is somewhat nippy, it is becoming a big problem.
But, allergies are becoming more and more common. We had a girl in my high school that on the first day of school had her seeing eye dog taken away from her. It was put in the vp's office all day, because people in her classes were allergic. I don't think that was a good solution, but allergies to animals are becoming more and more common like allergies to peanut butter. Parent councils might have a fit over the introduction to animals in a school, more than a kindergarten class having a hamster or such. What would you do with kids who couldn't participate in the program to make them feel included?
March 18th, 2005, 05:13 PM
I was once asked by a kindergarten teacher is I would bring my rabbit to school so the children could see her. My bunny was great with small children (no nipping :) ) but I also wondered about how the kids would treat the bunny. (Pull his ears, etc) So I made very strict rules - I would hold the bunny and the children would get to look at him close up, watch him eat some food and maybe offer him some treats ,hear about how to care for a small animal but that was it. There were children with allergies who watched from the back so they did not get too close. (And a note was sent home to the parents so they could decide). Unless it is a severe allergy or a child with an immunosuppressed illness, most children are more affected by ther carpeting in a school than the rabbit!.
(As a sidebar, I have managed the teatment of many patients who undergo bone marrow transplants (Leukemia, aplastic anemia) and several have pets that have caused no extra problems. Mind you, they are past the period of undergoing the prep radiation treatment but are still vulnerable.)
It would be great if more children had the opportunity to experience pets at school but litigation by parents, the (overused imho) excuse of allergies (Studies show that children who have pets at home actually develop a stronger immune system - yet another benefit of having a pet or pets), and the need for caution means it does not happen.
We also need to think of the pets and how comfortable they are around children. Supervision must occur at all times! And sadly, not all children are kind to animals and that is not something taught in one session.
When I was in elementary school, we had what what known as The Kindness Club and we wrote essays about how to be kind to animals. (I won several books for essays - one of the books I won was The Incredidible Journey - a wonderful book!!!!). The Kindness Club was started by the wife of the Premier of New Brunswick in 1959, Ada Flemming. She wrote a weekly column for years and we engaged in all sorts of activities for children. You might check out the club's web site for ideas. (It still exists in NB with chapters at schools thought the province)
March 18th, 2005, 05:17 PM
Mafia, that's exactly how I feel. I am severaly allergic to cats, to the point where I can't breathe if I spend more than 10 minutes anywhere where someone has one. I used to get allergies all the time in school just from the people in my classes who had cats at home.
I think kids should be taught about animals, but I don't think you could make it mandatory. Because of my bad cat allergies, and the fact that I will be breast feeding my children (when I have them) chances are the allergen will be passed on. I am also allergic to hamsters, guinea pigs, birds, and a little to rabbits.
In my school, all the parents had to agree to have a class pet. If one didn't, it wasn't allowed. I know my mom didn't allow it, so we had no pet in our class.
As a child, you don't have as much control over your environment as you do as an adult. If you have allergies to dust in your home, you remove carpets and curtains, and wash you sheets a lot. If you have allergies, you take an allergy pill when you want. As a child, you don't have those options. You do what adults tell you. As a kid, the kid I sat beside in class had three cats at home. My face was always swollen, my eyes red, and I was wheezing all the time. The teachers didn't care at all! It took them months to move me somewhere else, even after my mother asked them to move me.
March 18th, 2005, 05:22 PM
When I was in grade school my dog used to jump our stylish chainlink fence and visit me at school. :evil: The principal would let me walk him back home. :D
:sorry: ...off topic...the thread title just reminded me.
March 18th, 2005, 06:36 PM
All I can say about the "what about the kids who can't participate?" is that there is always someone who doesn't get to partake. How many hours did I spend in my elementary school's cafeteria doing "arts and crafts" because my school didn't have an alternative to the religion program. I didn't have a problem with that. The people in religion actually wished they could do what we were doing.
I think animal safety is more important if it saves one life, even if it means one small group has to be set aside to do something else.
March 18th, 2005, 07:16 PM
I agree. I had a medical conditon that prevented me from particpating in physed so I went to "study" hall - I didn't mind. (Truth be told, I never much careed for physed, lol) (Even though I think everyone should participate somehow in all activities - inclusion. You can provide other activities for those kids who cannot stay because of allergies.) I do not doubt your allergies were severe raingirl but wonder what might have been done to accomodate you better?
March 18th, 2005, 10:28 PM
Thank you so much for some of your ideas and also posing the logistic issues.
We are coming up with a variety of activities for schools to use - pet programs is just one component. This may be helpful when it comes to the allergies. We are doing everything from music and dance to art to relaxation (yoga). The really great thing about pets is that out of all the research on alternative programs to decrease mental health problems and increase self esteem, interacting with animals are among the best ways to help children (and adults). There are some studies even showing that it helps increase grades.
On the allergies:
When I was young I was severely allergic to all animals, I always loved them and it really killed me to not be able to play with them - I would sneek out to see the dogs in the neighborhood anyway and come home with a rash and swollen eyes. ;) My mother always knew what I had been up to.
Luckily, I have outgrown the allergy, but I am really concerned about how to handle this in the classroom - I feel like the children with allergies are really going to a) be crushed or b) feel really responsible and bear the brunt of the classroom's dissapointment. I think that the best way to handle this is to, before broaching the subject with the students, get information from the parents on allergies. If someone has allergies, then no pet that year or at least under whatever restrictions are needed (i.e. some kids are allergic to dogs and cats, but not birds). I think the best bet would be to only offer what would fit for the entire group. What do you think?
March 19th, 2005, 12:46 PM
I just read my Sunday Gazette from January---don't ask. And I saw an article about a teacher here who raises Mira dogs and trains them. She brings them to her classes. I think that is great too because the kids get to see the "bad" side of raising a puppy, and the resposnsiblity too. Needless to say the principal was very understanding....