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Life Science

Class Pets

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Carrie Spencer Carrie Spencer 525 Points

I have always thought that having a class pet would be an amazing experience for students. What are some pets that you have had in your classroom? I have thought about having mice, bearded dragon, or caterpillars. What are some of the challenges you have come across with having a class pet?

Barbara Force Barbara Force 1335 Points

When I was a teaching assistant in a special education program, we had three turtles in the classroom. The kids didn't notice them very much unless one of the turtles disappeared. The students weren't able to take care of the turtles due to mobility limitations, so a few hours were spent cleaning the tank every once in a while. They weren't very happy in the little tank. I suggest having lots of space and stimuli for any class pets. It keeps them interesting and happy.

Elyse Juarez Elyse Juarez 725 Points

I love the idea of class pets! I remember when I was in 2nd & 4th grade, both my teachers had class pets. They both had guinea pigs. My middle school science teacher had a turtle & hamster as well! They only challenges I can think of when it comes to class is students wanting time to interact with class pets. They are young and intrigued by things, so it may take some class time away. Another thing is students wanting to take home the animals on school breaks. My teacher let me take home the guinea pig over my Christmas break, and the only thing with it is having trust in your student. Another good idea is sending home permission slips to make sure it is okay with the parents!

April Miles April Miles 215 Points

I currently have beta fish (in separate tanks), and I have a leopard gecko. I also have another fish tank that I keep with live plants and snails as well for experiments. Our school recently consolidated and we did have this issue pop up though with a policy, so please make sure there isn't a policy regarding them. If I brought in any other class pets, I have to send notification home every semester with each group of students to make sure none were 'fearful'. If there was fear, the pet would have to be removed! Crazy!!! But make sure you tie your critters in to your lessons. I make sure we discuss the quality of their natural ecosystems, the water quality (pH, temp, etc.), and what the impacts of humans are in their natural environments. (I teach Biology fyi).

Lauren Apodaca Lauren Apodaca 345 Points

I have absolutely loved having a class pet! Surprisingly, snakes have been the friendliest and easiest to care for! I've also been using them to teach claim, evidence and reasoning and it has been super meaningful.

Shelby Rhodes Shelby Rhodes 815 Points

I have had a variety of experiences with pets in the classroom. My favorite pets have been butterflies, fish and chicks, but I also have had turtles, a spider, a snake and a hamster. The kids loved seeing the cycle of a butterfly and it was a great way to integrate writing into science. The kids loved observing the changes each day and created a booklet about the life cycle. The problem with having a fish was that it required a lot of maintenance, making sure the tank was cleaned regularly and fish do not last that long. One time I had a child find the fish dead and that was devastating to them. Also with a hamster, cleaning the cage was a must so that it would not smell, and one time the cage was left open and the hamster got out. I also enjoyed having chicks in the classroom because the students would observe changes and they could not wait for hatch day. There are so many terms that the students loved being able to explain to others and they would come in every morning and check on them. I think class pets are a great idea and great way to incorporate science and observation in the classroom, but it does require maintenance and children must know the limitations and safety guidelines.

Please check out! We provide grants to pre-K through 8th grade teachers to purchase and maintain classroom pets. Our website also has a lot of information on classroom pets, pet care, lesson plans based on classroom pets, etc. Good luck on choosing a classroom pet!

Amanda Wolfe Amanda Wolfe 16375 Points

One of my favorite class "pets" were hatching chickens. I bought and incubator for my biology class and bought some fertile eggs from a local farmer. As the eggs developed we would candle the eggs and see the movement of the embryos. The students would study the different stages of development and journal about what parts of the chick were developing. It was a great backdrop to our final physiology lessons of the year.

Sarah Benton Feitlinger Sarah Benton 1775 Points

Having animals in the classroom can be a really enriching experience. Although we never called them "pets" I always had fish and the random natural "catch and release" visitors of tadpoles, turtles, insects, caterpillars, salamanders, etc. We never kept these long, and I always checked our state's guidelines on keeping certain wildlife (particularly important with turtles). I used the fish tank as part of the 4th grade science curriculum where we covered animal adaptations, water quality testing, and various water chemistry. The kids loved these projects and took their responsibilities for caring for the fish very seriously. The drawbacks can be disease, keeping the tank clean, vacation care and summer care. Although with a good plan in place, none of these are very big hurdles! And even if you have a freshwater tank, I highly recommend using aquarium salt to keep everyone healthy!

Jasmin Romo Jasmin Romo 975 Points

I have never had a class pet in a classroom while I was in elementary, middle, or high school. I do remember having butterflies in a class I took in college. I think having a class pet in elementary and middle school is a great idea. Having butterflies when learning about them can be fun and engaging for the students, seeing the butterfly cycle happening over a period of time and writing about it whether it is discussion or observations can be very beneficial for students. Even having a classroom pet to take care of and give attention to teaches the students responsibility. Having students assigned jobs that involve the class pet helps them take ownership of something. There are many benefits to having a class pet. There is a web link on how Animals make great teachers that provides information on why it is good to have a class pet.

Charlotte Gutierrez Charlotte Gutierrez 610 Points

Hi Carrie, I have had caterpillars in my classroom for second graders. We are doing a lesson over the life cycle of a butterfly. The students come to observe what the caterpillars are doing inside the glass with their magnifying lens and they record their observations in their interactive science notebook. My cooperating teacher says that there has been a positive outcome to having caterpillars in the classroom, since the living visual helps some students on the concept being taught.

Katherine Thibodeau Katherine Thibodeau 595 Points

Hi! I have had 2 fire bellied toads in my classroom for 3 years now. They are super easy to take care of, they get fed once a week (live crickets!) I have room parents make a sign up for my class and the kids rotate bringing in the crickets once a week. My 7th graders also need to complete community service throughout the year so I give them hours for bringing in crickets and they can get more service hours if they help clean their cage. The students love watching them get fed every week and we have the occasional noises from them (they sound like dogs barking in the distance). Over long breaks and the summer I have families who volunteer to take care of them.

Tasha Tuck Tasha Tuck 265 Points

I love the idea of having a pet in the classroom. Growing up I can remember one of my teachers having a hamster in her classs, another had a tarantulas, and then my high school biology teacher would hatch chicks in the lab that we would take care of. I recently have worked with a teacher that had a guinea pig in her classroom. The students loved it and took pride in caring for it while at school. When we studied animal behavior, the students would track the guinea pigs activity each day and chart it throught the unit. It was a great pet to have in the class. However, it was a little taxing trying to keep the cage clean and find somone to care for the pig while we were out on breaks. If the teacher would be out the on a Friday, she would have to find someone to make sure the cage was clean and the pig had fresh food and water for the weekend. I love the idea of having a pet like a guinea pig or hamster in the classroom, just make sure you have a plan for care when you wont be there. 

Taylor Runchey Taylor Runchey 1005 Points

Hi there! I am a pre-service teacher at Wartburg College in Iowa. One idea for classroom pets, as mentioned in another reply to this post, is fish! Fish are often overlooked and underrated in terms of the educational opportunities they present. Our science professor at Wartburg, Dr. Mike Bechtel, began a program called Ioponics (Iowa Aquaponics) that brings fish into the classroom. Aquaponics involves plants and fish coexisting in water and supporting life for one another. In one of my science classes last year, we got to assemble our own small aquaponics systems and keep journals on the growth of our fish and plants throughout the semester. This would be highly beneficial to implement in any classroom, and the low-maintentence component makes it even more realistic and attainable. Having pets and plants in the classroom teaches students so much about taking care of life and fulfilling responsibilities. Further, the number of applicable science concepts is amazing (i.e. habitats, food chains, adaptations, different types of fish, characteristics of life, etc.)! You can learn more about Ioponics and getting a system set up in your own classroom at    

Jovanna Cruz Jovanna Cruz 870 Points

I remember being intrigued in science when I was in 4th grade because of our class pets, so I would say it's a great way for students to begin questioning things scientifically. We had 2 class pets in the classroom which consisted of one boa snake which was fairly small in the beginning and one African dwarf frog. After we discussed about the food chain our teacher would feed the snake and would allow us to see the process and we would also help with cleaning the frogs home. I also enjoyed when we would have certain roles like making sure the snakes cage door was closed or when we would be chosen to help clean the frog aquarium.

Kaitlyn Owens Kaitlyn Owens 1415 Points

I think class pets are so much fun! My teammate currently has a couple of hermit crabs as her class pets, and I am hoping to have turtles in the near future! I believe having a class pet would be a great way for students to make observations and understand the needs of survival. However, there are definitely some challenges. For instance, when school is closed, sometimes it might be necessary to take the pet home. Cleaning the pet's environment could also be difficult.

Lauren Cramer Lauren Cramer 2025 Points

I have fish in my classroom and the biggest issue I face is when we are on breaks they turn the thermostat to a certain temperature where it gets hot over the break. I have an autofeeder I use on those days and on the weekends, but sometimes it feeds too much and I have to clean the tank more often. I have also experienced students putting things in the fish tank when I am not looking and I have had to lay down very strict rules. I had a student one time who squirted hand sanitizer in the tank and it killed all of them. I never got new fish that year and told the students having class pets were a privilege. All in all, class pets are super fun and the students truly enjoy them. One of the sixth grade teachers has a bearded dragon and the kids love him! 

Emma True Emma True 950 Points

Hello! I am all for having a class pet. I feel as though there are a lot of responsibility and understanding that is taught when there is an animal or living thing present within a classroom. One thing I might reccommend having in a classroom would be an aquaponics system. This takes time to get set up, but it is it's own ecosystem that is self-sustained after awhile. This system may have fish in it as well, which would play well into a class pet. Otherwise, I would reccommend having either a reptile or small mammal. This does not take up a lot of space, but it also allows for students to learn responsibility and take care of the animal with guidance. These two options are great learning opportunities. 

Daniela Perez Daniela Perez 740 Points

I always reccomend keeping invertebrtes as class pets, such as mealworms, isopods, or hissing cockaroackes. They are extrmely low mainenence, you can go through multiple generations and see different life stages, and helps kids develop some sympathy and respect for all living things, not just the cute and fluffy ones. Their habitats are all similarly inexpensive and require mininal equipment, and there is absolutely no risk of kids getting bitten. Holiday break? No problem, they'll survive just fine without daily maintenence. Power outage at school? No problem, there is no equipment that requires outlets. Allergies? No fur, no problem. Kids can interact with them and hold them all at the same time if you wanted. If one gets squished, it's not as big of a deal as if someone squished a hamster too hard, or dumped a juice box into your aquarium. 

Low risk, high reward with invertebrates. 

Frida Rodriguez Frida Rodriguez 300 Points

I think this is a great idea; low maintence class pets would be more convenient for elementary classrooms. I would love to try it out for my future classroom. I appreciate your input!

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