Teachers across the U.S. and Canada have shared valuable insight about thetransformative power of classroom pets through a survey conducted this springby the Pets in the Classroom grant program. The survey — which received over10,200 overwhelmingly positive responses from teachers who have received Petsin the Classroom grants within the past two years — shows how teachers areusing pets in the classroom and the multitude of ways that students arebenefiting from them.

A staggering 96 percent of respondents said that having a pet in the classroomhas been a positive experience, and over 90 percent would be extremely likelyto recommend the Pets in the Classroom program. While the survey yielded someimpressive statistics, the most heartwarming results were the comments sharedby teachers about how pets are transforming their students’ lives — fromchildren who were able to overcome crippling anxiety about attending school,to those whose anger and behavioral issues subsided after a classroom pethelped them learn empathy.

According to the survey, over 50 percent of teachers use classroom pets almostevery day as part of theircurriculum, with 35 percent incorporating pets inreading activities every day or a few times per week and another25 percentusing pets with reading activities one to three times per month. Teachersreported that their students had demonstrated improvements in the followingareas:

Attendance: Nearly 78 percent of teachers saw an improvement in attendance dueto their classroom pet. A teacher shared, “One of the 3rd grade studentssuffered from a lot of anxiety about coming to school. They gotsick on the busalmost every day on the way to school and ended up being sent home. Thisstudent was transferred to my homeroom and put in charge of choosing otherstudents to help them take care of Spike [bearded dragon]. After the homeroomchange, and starting each day with classroom pet interactions, the student’sattendance improved significantly and they hated missing school!”

Decreased anxiety: Over 93 percent of teachers saw some decrease in anxietyamong students. A teacher remarked, “I had a student with severe anxiety. Shewould be hysterical each day and unable to come into the room. When I assignedher to care for the hamster before school, she became excited to get to schooland couldn’t wait to come to class. She would feed, water, and exercise thepet each morning. It changed her life for the better!”

Empathy/Compassion: An overwhelming 98 percent of teachers saw an increase inempathy and compassion, thanks to a classroom pet. “I saw a student who wasnot in control of his emotions and angry all the time, become so sweet andcompassionate with my bunny,” stated one teacher. Another teacher commented,“Teaching empathy with our class pet has been great. We have talked aboutfeelings and emotions from a hamster’s perspective, which leads into feelingsand emotions about our own self and others.”

Test/academic performance: Nearly 78 percent of teachers saw an improvement intest/academic performance. One teacher stated, “I had a student who did not dowell with change and shut down on a daily basis. After getting our pet, LittleG, I talked to him and his mom and came up with a behavior plan. If heparticipated and completed his work, he was able to feed and help take care ofLittle G on a daily basis. His behavior quickly improved and he became engagedin the classroom! He went from being in the 20th percentile on standardizedtests, to being in the 90th percentile in math!”

Responsibility: Ninety-eight percent of teachers saw an increase in studentresponsibility. “Our leopard gecko, Layla, has been a huge help teachingresponsibility in my classroom,” stated one teacher. “Students know they needto feed, water, and keep her lights on for her to grow and thrive.”

Self-Esteem: Ninety-two percent of teachers surveyed saw an improvement inself-esteem in students. One teacher commented, “I have found that ourclassroom pets have allowed some of the shyer students to come out of theirshells. Being exposed to the pets has given these students more confidence intheir interactions with their fellow students.”

Increased social skills: Ninety-five percent of teachers saw in increase insocial skills. “I have a non-verbal student in my classroom this year andbeing able to have this student develop social skills with the other studentsby feeding and caring for our pet has been phenomenal,” commented one teacher.“It has helped our classroom grow and build solid relationships that havelasted the whole year!” Student engagement: Over 97 percent of teachers saw anincrease in student engagement. One teacher said, “I teach a PreK/K SpecialNeeds class with Autistic children. The kids became more engaged in activitiesduring instruction time. Kids that were nonverbal are now verbal. They alwayswanted to do things and include their fish.” Another teacher commented, “Someof my students are ‘reluctant readers.’ They have become much more engagedduring read-to-self-time when they are able to sit near our leopard gecko andread.”

Decrease in necessary student disciplinary measures: Of the teachers surveyed,86 percent saw a decrease in necessary student disciplinary measures.“Students that have been identified as having severe behavior problems in thepast because of fighting were hired as veterinarians for the month,” sharedone teacher. “They took their responsibility seriously and didn’t want to losetheir job. Ultimately their attitude towards school changed drastically. Theybecame some of the most responsible class veterinarians.”

In addition to these encouraging statistics, 51 percent of teachers (5,238respondents) shared a “success story” – a meaningful way that a pet has helpeda student or students in the classroom. These inspirational success
stories are what drives the Pets in the Classroom grant program to continueproviding grants to teachers each school year.

The Pets in the Classroom grant program was established by the Pet Care Trustwith the knowledge that classroom pets can be a valuable teaching tool thatmany teachers do not have access to because of a lack of funding. During the2018-19 school year, 25,550 Pets in the Classroom grants were awarded — thelargest number of grants awarded in a single year — bringing the total numberof grants to over 144,895 grants since the program’s inception in 2011. Withthe significant impact that classroom pets are having on students, the Pets inthe Classroom grant program is gearing up for another school year of providingfunding to PreK – 9th grade teachers across the U.S. and Canada beginningAugust 1.

Source: World Pet Newsfeed

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