Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Critters OUTSIDE the Classroom

So many of you have commented that you are not allowed to have critters in your classrooms.  How sad for you and your students!  Here is a way to incorporate animals into your classroom without having them physically inside: get a window bird feeder!  I got mine from and it was so cheap.  (I have included links below.)  The students love watching a bird at the bird feeder.  The bird feeder is also attracting squirrels.  As we were reading Scaredy Squirrel's Travel Journal, this little buddy decided to peek in the window!  The kids thought it was hysterical.  We are going to start feeding him nuts so he comes back often.

Me with Scaredy Squirrel.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Got Allergies?

Stacee at Tiggeriffic 2nd Graders wanted to know how I handle children with pet allergies in my classroom.

When I set up my classroom in August, I don't bring any of my pets to school for two reasons. One, the heat is too much for them (and me)! Two, I don't yet know if anyone coming into my class has allergies.

So, the first week of school, I send home a packet for parents which includes information on school and class procedures, expectations, schedules, etc. Included in the packet is a parent information form that parents fill out and return to me. I gather a lot of information about my students from this form including, "Does your child have any allergies (including animals)?"

After I get these forms returned, I go from there.

My tarantula comes to school first. No one is ever allergic to it and the kids don't really handle it! And being a desert animal, the heat doesn't bother it, like it does the kids and me.

If a parent lists a pet allergy (other than guinea pig or rabbit) on the information form, I contact them to discuss the severity of the allergy, symptoms, etc. Together we decide which furry animal to introduce into the classroom first. Then we touch base everyday for a couple weeks to see how things go before bringing in the other animal. And the process repeats.

My experience has been that the most common allergies are to dogs or cats. I've only had one child allergic to rabbits, and he was okay as long as he washed after petting the rabbit. His allergy wasn't too severe and his parents were fine with the pets in the class.

I've never had any problems with guinea pigs, hedgehogs, hamsters, walking sticks, snakes, or lizards. Some kids don't want to handle the animals and some know they can't because they sometimes get itchy.

No matter what, kids should always wash after handling any animals! Non-furry pets carry different risks such as salmonella, so washing is a must.

Birds have a different kind of dander (is that what it is called?) that can be difficult for kids with respiratory ailments. I've seen some people sensitive to rat dander, too.

The health and well-being of my students is my top priority, so if a student has a reaction to any of my pets the pet will go home to live. I make sure the parents and kids know that. Yes, the kids would be saddened, but caring for our friends in class is more important.

I've only had one pet go home and it was because one of our specialist that used my room had a reaction.

The worst that can happen is your pet comes home for a while. And after all, they are your pets first and foremost!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Meet Fizz - Hamster to the Rescue!

Meet Fizz! Fizz is a (very) fluffy teddy bear hamster. 

Hi Everybody! It's Molly from Classroom Confetti. I'm so excited to be a part of Erica's new blog dedicated to our classroom critters! This is something that is close to my heart and I'm excited to celebrate animals right along with teaching!

I've recently inherited Fizz, the teddy bear hamster, due to neglect. A fellow student teacher knew about my love for animals and contacted me a few weeks ago because the K5 class she is in had Fizz and the teachers were threatening to" just stop feeding him" because he made too big of mess in the classroom. She told me that the teachers inherited Fizz at the end of last year and did not want him. She said the teachers never referenced him to the kids and wanted nothing to do with a pet in their classroom. At first my friend thought surely not feeding him was a joke but then observed over the next few days that the teacher and her assistant were indeed, not feeding sweet Fizz. (Can you believe that?! Makes me sad that this person is even teaching, but moving on...) She offered to find Fizz a home and the teachers were obviously very open to this idea. So she called me in a panic and I took him. However, my friend that is still in the class said that the students were devastated. As you can imagine, they were asking non stop about where the hamster went, if hes okay, etc. They felt like a member of their classroom family had disappeared and it seemed in their little minds that something terrible must have happened to him. Thankfully, my friend was able to explain to them that the hamster moved somewhere that was easier on him since he was a little bit older. She beautifully turned the yuck situation into something that showed the little ones about treating animals with compassion.
So, on a much happier note, I took the hamster into my class and we have all fallen in love with the little guy, so the story has a very happy ending! My students are learning responsibility, gentleness and appropriate ways to handle small animals. I even see children who didn't normally interact much with one another bonding over the hamster. (Love that!) The story does have a very sweet ending: The little guy was able to teach two different groups of children about treating animals with compassion. The Kinder's are happy that the hamster is safe, and my group is thrilled and think they are super animal saving heroes.  :)

I tell you this story to tell you that issues such as neglect from the Kindergarten teacher are reasons why animal rights groups do not advocate animals in the classroom. This blog is celebrating the oodles of positives that a class pet can bring to a classroom. We know the good that class pets can bring, and it is incredibly sad that animal rights groups don't advocate animals in the classroom for fear that they are not properly taken care of and treated with respect.  As we all know, when it comes down to it, the animal belongs to the teacher and the teacher is responsible for primary care. We as teachers are also responsible for teaching little ones the proper ways to care for and respect animals. (What a fantastic way to put an end to the trend of animal cruelty in our country!) That being said, if you come across an abusive situation as I did, it is our job as animal advocates and concerned citizens to give a voice to these precious creatures who cannot speak for themselves.

Some ways that you can intervene in a neglect/abusive situation like this in a school:
1. Offer to take the pet out of the situation.  If you cannot care for it yourself, contact a local rescue group that will gladly accept the pet. (See below)
2.  If the teacher refuses to relinquish the pet, contact the principal with documented and/or specific issues.
3.  If these steps fail, contact your local animal rescue organization and they will take proper steps to ensure the animal is rescued and safe.

Some rescue organizations that will benefit you in rescuing a classroom pet:

Small Angels Rescue This site specializes in small, classroom pet, types of animals. This site gives you contact information to their staff that can aid you in your rescue. If you are fostering a pet, this site also gives you great re-homing information and resources.
National Humane Society This link gives you resources and names of rescue organizations by state.

What a great opportunity we have as teachers to teach our students about compassion through properly caring for, and respecting animals. They bring such joy to our classrooms, lives, and the world!

Next time, I'll introduce the other fun critter living in our classroom!
Goodbye from Fizz! (who likes to run on top of his wheel instead of inside it!?)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Meet Gina - the guinea pig!!!

Hi Everyone!

Ms. Rachel here from Ms. Rachel's Room.  I'm a special education teacher from Michigan.  I teach a moderately cognitively impaired classroom for a range of students aged 12-26.  This year we received a guinea pig from Pet's in the Classroom.  What a great program!

Here is sweet, sweet Gina!

She was named by my students.  I believe the name came from Sesame Street.   Gina has been a great addition to my classroom.  We are learning so much about caring for someone (or something) else, responsibility and all sorts of great things!
(she was feeling photogenic)
One thing I have found to be an amazing part of having a pet in the classroom is how comfortable my students feel with it!  I have students who have been through some extremely tough stuff and they really LOVE Gina.  They love to hold her and just pet her,  I feel as it helps calm them down and gives them a sort of therapy, I feel like I'm rambling, do you know what I mean when I say all that?

I hope you enjoyed meeting Gina!  Come visit my blog, I'll be sharing soon about we take care of Gina!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sweet Miss Theodora

Hi there!  This is Deedee from Mrs. Wills Kindergarten and I am so excited to be part of Erica's wonderful blog dedicated to our little friends.
Two years ago I decided I wanted a class pet for Christmas.  I have to say, I LOVE MY PIG!

During Writer's Workshop, I wrote about it with my kindergarten kiddos.

You can read more about this writing here.

My husband humored me and we found Miss Theodora!   We seriously went to MANY places before we found her.
 Isn't she beautiful?
 She has a special bond with our evening custodian who sneaks into the kitchen each night to bring her treats.   He was out sick for a few days and I thought she was going to have a FIT!   She kept squeaking at the substitute custodian... poor guy had no idea that was also part of his job description.

Then this summer I was hanging out on and LOOK WHAT I FOUND!
I promise I did not know about this book when I named her!  My class loves this book and we have read it over... and over... and over...

I can't wait to hear about the other fabulous classroom critters that are out there.
Won't you share with us?

"Lured" by Fish

I am a critter "wife"; not by choice, but since my husband teaches science, creatures of all kinds enter our home.  We have been blessed with hissing cockroaches from Madagascar, (they are huge) tree frogs, meal worms, (they turn into black bugs) red worms, etc.  Some have lived in our guest room while others have found a special place in my refrigerator.  We've even had horse dung soaking in water so the bacteria could grow.  Oh, that was delightful and aromatic!  Thank goodness for the invention of "Oust".  So after all of those creatures, what kind of a story could I possibly write to make critters attractive? Well, I do have a fish tale, but up front I must disclose that it is not your typical "fish" story.

When I taught third grade in an inner city school, I knew the children needed something to love, but being a city girl, my love of animals was deficient.  That is when my husband helped me to set up an aquarium. I purchased a water heater, a bubblier, chemicals, plants, fish food, and of course the fish! Little did I know what effect this would have on my munchkins. 

Every day, the children would enter the room, go over to the fish tank, and talk to the fish.  Each fish had a name, and being the fish keeper became the prized chore.  Even though we couldn't pet the fish, they were loved by every child, and they brought a sense of family to my classroom.  Naturally, one of the fish died, but it allowed us, as a class, to mourn together.  

When a guest entered our room, s/he had to be formally introduced to the fish.  They became the focal point of the classroom But there was something else that transpired that truly surprised me.  The fish had a calming effect on my student who had a behavior disorder.  If his desk were moved near the aquarium, he would sit quietly and actually do some of his work without disruption. 

At the end of the year, the remaining fish made their way to my home where they spent the summer with my husband's critters.  Unfortunately, they failed to calm the cockroaches into silence!  But all six survived to be in third grade again!

Scipi's Blog

Thanks for letting me share!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, and Tarantulas, Oh My!

Hello! This is Erika from The Honey Bunch and I am so excited to be a contributor on Erica Bohrer's new blog dedicated to pets in the classroom.

Teaching is my job and my passion, but animals come a close second. (Some days it comes in first place. You know those days!) As a child, my second career choice (after teaching) was to be a veterinarian, but unfortunately you have to deal with blood, injuries, and hurt animals. Blood makes me pass out, so that pretty much ruled that out! And, to be honest, I prefer animals that are healthy and happy.

This is my eighteenth year teaching, and I have had a class pet (or two) since the very beginning. As an animal lover, it didn't take much to convince me that having a class pet would be a positive and beneficial thing for my students.

I've had a ring-necked dove, guinea pigs, cockatiels, hedgehogs, rabbits, rats, snakes, hamsters, walking sticks and lizards in my classroom.

Currently, I have a rabbit named Bugsy who is an eight year old OLD lady. She loves to hop around nibbling on shoelaces and can often be found in the paper recycling box chewing on paper. When she wants to be pet, she lets you know by nudging you on the foot or leg. She is litter box trained so she can roam around the room a lot.

I also have a guinea pig named Antonia who is about 4 years old. She is a chatterbox! When she wants to be fed, we know it! And she likes to be fed a LOT!

And finally, I have a rose-hair tarantula named Kiwi that is about eight years old. I think it is a she, or maybe it's just wishful thinking since I grew up with Charlotte from Charlotte's Web. My own children named her Kiwi because she is fuzzy like kiwi. (I don't eat that kind of fruit anymore, by the way!)

In future posts, I'd like to share with you some of the positives and negatives about different pets I've had. I also plan on sharing with you some of the ways I use my pets in my teaching. If anyone has a specific topic they'd like covered, please let me know.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dedicated to Molly

This blog is dedicated to the best guinea pig who ever lived, Molly.

Click {here} to read about the wonderful things she taught us.

Meet the Girls: Daisy and Chrysanthemum

I want to introduce you to my classroom pets, Daisy and Chrysanthemum!  They are guinea pigs and are only about 7 months old.  They were purchased through a Petsmart grant (click {here} to read more about how I got Daisy).


Click {here} for more photos of the girls.
This is their cage in school.  I made it using directions from Cavy Spirit, my favorite website about guinea pigs.  Click {here} to jump right to their cage webpage. 

My students love the guinea pigs and think that they are hysterical.  The piggies love to jump on top of their house and squeak at us for veggies or run laps around their cage.   They each have distinct personalities.  Daisy is mellower and Chrysanthemum is loud, rude, and fast!  Chrysanthemum likes to yank food out of your hand or Daisy's mouth, while Daisy takes it gently.  I love reading the journal entries when they come back from a weekend with a family.  It usually takes them about one night to settle in and then their personalities come out.  

All of my students are allowed to pet the guinea pigs with supervision.  A few students earn guinea pig time as a reward for a good day and meeting all their goals on their behavior chart.  A few of the ABA students in the building work to earn carrots to feed the guinea pigs, then their teacher takes them to my classroom where they get to sit at a table and hand feed them.  

Stay tuned for more of Daisy and Chrysanthemum's adventures and photos!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Critters in the Classroom

Click the picture above to download your free guide to critters int he classroom!

Sunday, November 27, 2011



This site is a place for teachers to share their adventures and ideas for incorporating animals into the classroom.  This site only supports humane treatment of animals in the classroom.  We feel that the educators who bring these animals into the classroom must treat them as if they are their own personal pets.  Bringing an animal into the classroom is a huge responsibility, but it can provide your students with long lasting educational memories.

Feel free to contact any of us "Critters in the Classroom" contributors for advice about classroom pets.

Click the picture above to download your free copy of Critters in the Classroom!

Home on My Back

Click the picture above to get your fee turtles tree map.

Wet & Wild

 Click on the picture below to get tree maps for lizards, snakes, frogs, and fish!

Friends of a Feather

Click the picture above to get your fee birds tree map.  

Cute & Cuddly

Click on a picture to download guinea pigs, mice, gerbils, rabbits, and chinchillas tree maps.