Institute of Human Origins - March 2024


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Life Science

Animals in the classroom?

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Tyler Mack Tyler Mack 85 Points

Greetings everyone! I just have a quick question about animals in the classroom: Are there specific national standards regarding what exactly is and is not allowed in a high school classroom? My internet-searching abilities may just be sorely lacking; but I have only been able to determine two things so far: 1. As a resident of New York State, the classroom cannot have anything that New York explicitly bans from keeping as a pet, i.e. bears, tigers, lions, venomous snakes, etc. That pretty much goes without saying. And 2. Animals that are "venomous" are not allowed. That, unfortunately, produces some odd grey areas. Would it only be restricted if it is actually considered dangerous to people? Or are species that technically have venom, but are not considered a danger, also restricted? Something like moon jellies, or coral/sea anemones in a reef tank, or a western hognose snake. I would love to be able to permanently display several different types of animals in the classroom for students to observe, but I would like to avoid making a potentially serious legal blunder in the process. Thank you all for your help!

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

I think the first place to check would be the policies of your school district, if there are any in the animal area. If they do not have any, I would ask the superintendent of your district. Does your district have a Safety Officer? They might be able to help. I assume that New York is the state you are in. Does the state department of education have anything on their website? Good luck. Let us know what you find out.

Dorothy Ginnett Dorothy Ginnett 28240 Points

A good place to start might be the NSTA Position Statement on Live Animals and Dissection in the Classroom.

I've been fortunate to have live animals in several of my classrooms over the years. Students were always involved in the care of the classroom animals.

Fish tanks are a great place to start. The bubbling water and fish swimming are so soothing to the spirit.

Live animals teach children important lessons about caring and compassion for other living things.

Another idea would be to place bird feeders near (or on) the classroom windows and attract wild birds in for sightings. Keep binoculars near the window and a class bird list.


Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92246 Points

Hi Tyler, Besides all of the good advice you have already received, and I would also check with the district handbook of policies (as recommended by Betty) to see if this is addressed there. I would also recommend talking with your school nurse to see if there are any student allergies that you would need to be aware of. Many students have allergies to various animal species, especially birds and mammals. Plus certain reptiles and amphibians tend to harbor disease-causing micro-organisms that you would need to be cognizant of and, thus, teach important health and safety handling procedures to your students before allowing them to be in contact with said animal(s). I have had cockateels, rabbits, garter snakes, hissing cockroaches, aquarium fish, hermit crabs, etc., as classroom companions through the years. Each has specific cautions to be aware of. The addition of live animals when done safely and purposefully can add excitement and interest to one's classroom. I love Dorothy's idea of a bird feeder close to the classroom window. Good luck as you pursue this. Carolyn

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points

I will also endorse Dorothy's suggestions of fish and outdoor bird feeders. It is especially enjoyable to watch animals that are not imprisoned. Another issue that I have seen way too often is keeping animals in a classroom where there is the potential allergic reaction to the captives. As one who is allergic to many species, I can appreciate the difficulty students encounter when they have no choice but to stay in a classroom where an offending animal resides. Imagine how difficult it potentially is to study with your eyes swollen, coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.

Tonya Jackson Tonya Jackson 1085 Points

Petsmart and a few other companies sponsor a teacher grant called "Critters in the Classroom." Several of our teachers have been successful in securing this great little grant!

Marisela Montes Marisela Corona 3650 Points

Hi, Many districts have strict policies on classroom pets. I am a students teacher and I wanted to bring my bearded dragon to class to teach a lesson on reptiles. I had to get it approved with the principal before I brought it and I had to get a permission form sent to the students' parents for their consent if they allowed their child to participate. The students who did not have their permission form signed were not allowed to touch my pet and only observe at a distance. It was a great experience for the students because many of them had never experienced interacting with a reptile.

Cassandra Edmond Cassandra Edmond 515 Points

Many districts may have different policies. You should probably check the policies within your school district. Some policies in some schools include these types of pets: - Only domestic animals - Wild animals may not be kept as pets (including caught frogs, and snakes) - Animals must be awake during the day - The pet should be acquired through an adoption center, rescue, or re-homing if possible Before acquiring a classroom pet, investigate whether any student is: - allergic or sensitive to any particular species or their food or bedding materials - immune compromised, and therefore more susceptible to zoological illnesses Fish tanks can be a good pet to start with in a classroom.

Brianna Del Bosque Brianna Del Bosque 2230 Points

I believe that you need to first see what the district policies on animals in the classroom are. I know I have seen many schools that allow fish tanks but I have not seen many other types of animals. I think by having a classroom pet helps children learn responsibilities.

Clayton Crawford Clay Crawford 130 Points

I have a wonderful principal and district that supports animals in the classroom. I own an African Grey Parrot that I have had for 21 years. I have an extra cage in the classroom and she comes to school about 3 times a week. I take her in the morning and she goes home at night. She never spends the night in the classroom. I also have several 10 gallon tanks, some are used as aquariums, some as terrariums. We have a small ring neck snake in one. We had 2 small lizards in another. And we breed crickets to feed them. When I started teaching 2 years ago, I went down to the river and got a couple of small fish and crawdads. Multiple crawdads in one tanks didn't go over so well. I only have two left. Had 2 small catfish, one turned out to be a bull head and is about 3 inches long, the other is a blue catfish and about 10 inches long. Also have a long eared sunfish and a short eared bluegill type fish. This summer I had a 75 gallon tank donated to my room and the fish are all in it, along with a 16 inch Pleco (algae eater). I even had the principal come in one day with a small skink in a baggie they had caught in another classroom. Sometimes we catch flies with a fish net and feed them to the lizards. Had a boy visiting a relative in southern Missouri when the Tarantulas were running. His MOM made him catch one to bring to the class. It was a male and only lived a couple of months. The animals are there in my class, they are on my syllabus so everyone knows. So far, I have not had any one allergic to them. And I take extra care to protect both the animals from the students and the students from the animals. It is not a petting zoo. I teach high school biology, so that could be less of an issue. We use them as part of the curriculum, and they do bring an added richness to the class. However, I have yet to get students to help care for them on a routine basis. Oh, and we also breed fruit flies that we had from last year. The thought occurred to me that they would be perfect food for a preying mantis. We have seen them around. And I also have a Tokay Gecko that was donated last year, along with the cage. These are aggressive, bite and will "bark" if disturbed. Kids love that, so I have to keep them from antagonizing it. Additionally, we also have many plants, including a banana plant that should fruit this year. Our room is affectionately known as "The Zoo" I love it and hope I can keep both students and animals safe. I even had the Conservation Agent come out and help me with the fish and the snakes.


Yaco_In_Class.JPG (1.18 Mb)

Amerah Hashim Amerah Hashimi 1090 Points

Hi Tyler,  I just wanted to comment and say that I think it's great that you are bringing real, authentic learning into your classroom. This is definitely going to have a lasting impression on your students. You mentioned that your students are in high school. High schoolers are old enough to appreciate the effort and consideration, as well. I think they will see your sincerity in wanting to teach in the best possible way and be more engaged than if you were to just show a video or pictures on these animals. There are so many potentials lesson, integrated activities that could all stem from having a pet in the classroom! I just wanted to say that I think it's an awesome idea. Hopefully, a local admin at your school could help and guide you in this matter. Sincerely, Amerah 

Dallas Aguilar Dallas Aguilar 840 Points

Goldfish would be a good idea. 

Matthew Farrell Matthew Farrell 185 Points

I would talk to my school about the rules of having animals in the classroom. Allergies play a big part on what is allowed and not nowadays. A coach or principal should be able to provide you with what is acceptable.

Jessica Galatioto Jessica Galatioto 970 Points

I feel that if it is in a tank such as sea anemones it should be okay. As long as the student doesn't have the ability to stick their hand all the way in there. I went to school in NY and although I don't remember having animals in any class, I feel it could be extremely helpful to the student. Especially down south near Long Island students may come across some sea creatures and need to know about them.

Courtney Stuart courtney stuart 4453 Points

I think its awesome that you want to have multiple different animals in the classroom for the children to learn about. This gives the children a great experience to physically see the animal when they are learning about them. It also can help the children learn about responsibility when taking care of the animals.

Kelsey Ettleman Kelsey Ettleman 3729 Points

Tyler- As a preservice teacher, I have never thought about this topic before. In my elementary schooling experience my classrooms did not have any classroom pets, but in sixth grade that changed. My class had a huge fish tank and it was the student's responsibility to take care of them. I and my classmates loved doing this and it was fun to learn about the fish we were taking care of. I think classroom pets are a great opportunity for students to not only learn but also gain responsibility for taking care of them. In my future classroom, I would like to have fish like my sixth-grade teacher had. I hope you are able to find what your school/ state allows and doesn't allow, so you can get the pets you would like for your classroom!

Whitnie Hutchinson Whitnie Hutchinson 4598 Points

Hi there! Coming from a student who was very involved in FFA and Ag science I don't think there is a limit. We had a pet tea cup pig in our room that our instructor took home at night. However for general science rooms I could see there being limits. I encourage this as this will bring not only science skills but responsibility to the classroom for taking care of the animal. On animal all my general science teachers had were fish. This was something that we had to take care of daily as we were learning about ocean and sea life Highly encouraged for your visual learners.

James Johnson James Johnson 95308 Points

Hi Tyler, It looks like you have researched the laws and policies and a lot of teachers have given you great ideas. I used animals in the classroom for years with great results. We did Trout in the Classroom with Trout Unlimited and the state Fish and Game Commission. They even gave us the equipment and eggs to raise the fish. We did vermiculture with a little composting area. When the fish got big enough, we fed the worms to the fish for a treat (the kids and the fish). We did Seeds in Space with tomatoes. When "The Martian" movie came out, we grew potatoes using our compost. We graduated to elevated planters, outside. We had a small fish tank which the kids separated into a wet area and dry area and the kids brought in salamanders and small bugs to observe, also frogs and toads. The kids loved the plants and animals and it was great to relate the lesson to the classroom displays. You're only limited by your imagination (and school rules)!

Jody Foster Jody 725 Points

I know with certain animals, appropriate licenses are necessary, so looking into that would be very important. In my school, they have lizards, hamsters, and chicks, and as far as I know, nothing was needed, just approval from the principals!

Marlu Martin Marlu Martin 810 Points

Depends on the reason why you want the pet in the first place.  If it's to show them off, as observation, then that can be done virtually.  If it is to bring them responsibility, then ask your administrator what is allowed at your school.  If it is to have a class mascot, to unite them as a team, then consider what you want them to feel they are united by (courage, confidence, trust, compassion?), and buy the animal based on that response. 

Mary Lynn Hess Mary Hess 12058 Points


There have been some good ideas presented. I really think it depends on your district and the principal to support your efforts.

Animals can provide sound learning experiences. Maybe you can start small with fish, butterflies, frogs, ladybugs, praying mantis, then graduate to something more like a native snake, mouse, hatching chicks, etc. Keep in mind the workload for weekends, holidays and summer for babysitting.

I hope you are able to give your students this valuable opportunity. 

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92246 Points

I am teaching a two-week summer camp with 8 adorable 2nd through 4th graders. We went out looking for pill bugs today. We explored a woodlands and a garden. We found one isopod in the woods. We found over 50 in garden soil. (The garden also happened to have lettuce that we could pick to use as a food source for our crusty creatures. We discussed what types of abiotic factors impacted these invertebrates; then we made pill bug habitats. We are bringing them indoors for the duration of camp. Then we will let them go on the last day. The kids are so excited. They have made choice chambers and will determine what their crustaceans like best. I used this Science and Children article for background information:
The Amazing Ecology of Terrestrial Isopods
I love that we will keep them for a few days and then release them back into their former 'homes'.
I know this wasn't what you were 'looking for', Tyler, but I offer it as another option.

Amatulmuid Anderson Amatulmuid Anderson 1295 Points

I too have a few animals in my classroom. I only teach 3rd-5th grades. The students take turns caring for the pets. They observe the changes in the animals' behavior. They have named name them etc. I have the classic 3 turtles, and a male and female betta. We watched as the male betta built his "nest" to house the eggs. This correlates exactly witih our standards for third and fourth grade (habitats 3rd and ecosystems 4th). Having pets in the classroom has enhanced instruction. I was very happy with my pets until this summer when someone mentioned that the turtle looked as if he wanted to escape. Perhaps keeping them for a designated amount of time might teach another lesson to the students. I have become a bit more empathetic to their general need to roam. When I read your comment it really touched me. Muid

Marisela Garza Marisela Garza 2525 Points

What do pill bugs do? 

Amatulmuid Anderson Amatulmuid Anderson 1295 Points

Neville Beckford Neville Beckford 2155 Points

Once the school rules are not broken, having pets in the class room is like hands on activities especially for younger students. I have heard teachers speek of remarkable progress in students attitude towards science because of their involement with pets in the classroom and how the teacher incooperate the animals as part of their lesson plan.

 Eric Proctor 180 Points

Another place to check is with the state wildlife department. They often have special permits or licenses. Plus, they can provide guidance regarding restricted wildlife. Of course, this would be after checking district policies, allergy concerns, etc. that have already been addressed by the other comments.

Destiny Huggins Destiny Huggins 10040 Points

I have been wondering about having a class pet as well. I remember having all sorts of class pets (fish, turtles, guinee pigs, and a hedgehog). I really want to have something that the students can both enjoy and help take care of. I love the idea of the fish and the feeders outdoors. Thanks for all the input it will help me on my decision too!


Thanks to everyone for the valuable ideas and resources as i hopefully will be a NYS teacher in 18 months. My daughter had guppies in her classroom in 4th grade, which she loved. She volunteered to take them home at the end of the year (unbeknownst to me!) and now she is 25, and I am still taking care of their descendants while getting my Masters in Science Education. I hope I will be able to move some of them into my classroom wherever I end up teaching. I have observed some bare classrooms! The Living Environment should be full of life. But there are ethical issues, as the turtle comment in this thread indicates. With the guppies at home, I eventually made two tanks - one for males and one for females, only putting them together when numbers get smaller. This decision I made because over the years it became hard to watch the females constantly pestered with nowhere to escape, and also there were a lot of uncomfortable-looking mutations. I bought 2 new males in the last ten years which seems to have stopped the malformed mutations. I try to keep the tanks plant-filled and as much like a real environment as possible - not a bare tank. Thinking about the fish and how to treat them has been a valuable learning experience in my family and will be a very valuable lesson for students as well. Over the years I have seen too many goldfish given away at carnivals who suffer for no reason other than no one gave them a second thought as living beings. "They're only goldfish!"

Janie Hiers Janie Hiers 6315 Points

I wanted to say that like you I hopefully will be a science teacher by August.

Jordan Hammerand Jordan Hammerand 3350 Points

In preparation to have my own classroom, considering the pros and cons of having a class pet is important. While I agree with past posts that having a pet is a great way to help students take ownership of their classroom, practice responsibility by caring for the animal, and inspire curiosity and research, I also appreciate everyone's advice on precautions and even possible downfalls of taking animals out of their natural environment. Ideally, it would be fantastic for kids to take lots of field trips to partake in learning experiences in the 'real world'. Logistically and financially this is not an efficient option most of the time. So its important to bring a variety of real artifacts and specimen into the classroom to enrich learning experiences. The ethics concern in respect to having animals caged in your class is something important to consider. I think should be a topic of discussion among students before getting a class pet. If students decide having a pet is unethical, I really like the bird feeder option. Bird watching can be done almost anywhere. Catching bugs and then returning them to their natural habitat may also be a good compromise to having a pet. I think its important to demonstrate critical thinking for students and will continue weighing the pros and cons of having animals in the classroom.

Nina Zhen Nina Zhen 1905 Points

I have always thought of getting a classroom pet, because of all the potential informal learning that could happen. Students will naturally be curious about the animal, which can lead to exploration and research. However, I had not thought of the potential risks of keeping a classroom pet, so I am glad that I read this post. I know now that it is important to research the animal and any dangerous microbes it could harbor, teach safe handling, and find out if any students are allergic.

Lucia Martinez Lucia Martinez 1145 Points

I think animals in the classroom would be a great idea depending on the animal and I believe it depends on your school.

Andrea Velazquez Andrea Velazquez 1600 Points

I agree Lucia. I think having a classroom pet is an easy access to engagement and informal (or formal), authentic learning. However, there are some risks involved and there is nothing better than to be informed! 

Jenine Nord jenine nord 450 Points

I have had many classroom pets. My children not only enjoy a pet they can touch (seems that petting an animal can be very therapeutic), but having multiple small terrarium/aquariums placed near work areas can be very interesting for students to observe the animals...this is a nice alternative if there is a safety concern. The downside to a pet in the classroom is what to do with them over long breaks like Christmas and Summer...

Clayton Crawford Clay Crawford 130 Points

I have multiple pets and differing solutions for summer. I have an African Grey parrot, she comes home with me every night and during the summer, so that is easy. I have several small fish tanks and terrariums and plants. I can usually take care of them every other day or so. I also have one of the custodians who helps me out. I placed a piece of paper on the counter and indicate the date they are fed. That way we both know, and we communicate of one of us goes out of town or something. He works most of the summer so that really helps.

Beverly Owens Beverly Owens 1045 Points

I had Glofish and fire bellied toads in my previous classroom. During the summer and extended breaks, I would feed them once a week. I put in those extended release feeders for the fish and extra crickets for the toads. It worked out really well.

Sherri Lucas Sherri Lucas 310 Points

Hi! I know that rats scare people, BUT I had two pet Dumbo rats this past year and they were wonderful. My students really embraced the responsibility and the rats became a part of our family. Check out I received a grant that didn't take care of all costs, but it did pay for a great portion of the cost. I would get a female if possible. If you have any questions, I'd love to talk to you more about them.

Jenine Nord jenine nord 450 Points

I so agree...I have had many rats for class pets and they were the best pets...I have not had a student bitten by a rat...they are very friendly and smart...that is my favorite class pet...I could even let them run around the classroom after school and they would come to me when I called...but, so many people are scared of them that I did meet resistance from fellow teachers...

Brittany Gilchrest Brittany Gilchrest 1165 Points

I would love to be able to have a classroom pet this coming year. Thanks for putting this link

Samantha Coyle Samantha Coyle 2245 Points

While NY is different from TX, there was one teacher who had a room FULL of animals. Quite a few were snakes, though I am not sure about their state of being venomous.

Clayton Crawford Clay Crawford 130 Points

School is getting ready to start here in Missouri, and insects and other small animals are starting to show up. I try to use them as opportunities to teach the students. Found a male praying mantis we now have, looking for a female. Within reason, I think animals in the classroom are a very important aspect of student learning.

Samantha Coyle Samantha Coyle 2245 Points

There are so many skills and lessons to be taught with a classroom pet, insect, etc. Very valuable!

Yookyung Chung Yookyung Chung 565 Points

I am a student intern working at school now. When I become a teacher of record, I would like to set up a small aquaponics system in my classroom. I would need aquarium, gravels, plants, water pumps, etc. I am thinking about using Glofish that are genetically engineered, solar powered pump, and stations where students can measure pH level, Nitrate, Nitrate, Ammonia, and oxygen levels. This will help students to understand alternative farming systems and energy. This is something that I would like to plan out through this year!

Amanda Ferrer Amanda Ferrer 1320 Points

From research I have done in the past, Mammals, birds, and poisonous/venomous species are unacceptable in schools. However, other animals are tolerated in the classroom if permitted by the principal. I think animals in the classroom make great learning experiences for children, therefore, don't discard the idea. Ask your principle and present ideas as to why you think this will enhance student learning. When I was in elementary school, a fourth grade teacher turned a portion of the classroom into a butterfly garden. We were allowed to make observations and better understand the evolution of a butterfly. I am looking forward to doing this in my classroom!

Danielle Bergstrom Dani Bergstrom 1160 Points

Great post!

Adriana Castillo Adriana Castillo 1015 Points

I would just check to make sure that the students are not allergic to any animals. It is important to keep the classroom a safe environment for all children. 

Meaghan Rivas meaghan rivas 1120 Points

Hi, I think it would be so awesome if you could have animals in the classroom. One issue with that is children could become easily distracted and constantly wanting to touch the animals, but the positive side of it is that students can see how animals live and learn about the food and habitat that is needed for each animal. -Meaghan Rivas

Melissa Ruiz Melissa Ruiz 495 Points

That sounds like fun for the children to see an actual animal and learn responsibilities for taking care of it. You can also do a science lesson in which you learn more about sea animals since you are planning on using fishes. But I would first look into your school policies and the district on having animals in your classroom. I know some districts might not allow animals in the classroom for health policies but as long your school says it is okay, I see it as a learning experience. 

Dulce Reyes Dulce Reyes 2565 Points

I know in Texas there are guidelines a teacher must consider before considering a pet in the classroom. There are certain animals you can have. Also teachers must take a class and get certified so they can have a pet in the classroom. 

Edith Heppe Edith Heppe 405 Points

I think that if you are responsible about having a pet in the classroom it can be a memorable and positive experience. Otherwise, it can be stressful for the animal and give kids the wrong idea about how to care for and treat animals. I once subbed for a teacher that had a bird in the room and it wasn't until I asked about it that the kids even paid any notice to it! I was told that the teacher had been out sick for a few weeks! I was so concerned about that bird I felt horrible just leaving it. It is very possible that she had all of that covered unbeknownst to me but I would be a little surprised if that were in fact the case.  There are too many irresponsible pet owners and we do not need to create more by giving the wrong impression to kids about how to care for, nurture, and treat any kind of animal.  If you do decide on a class pet it should be a big deal every single day!!!! It is a life. This is a great way to teach compassion and empathy. 

Shereen AbdelJaber Shereen AbdelJaber 165 Points

This is such an interesting post, considering my own Professor has her Assistant Instructor Grace by her side at all times. I think having pets in the classroom is a great idea to keep students in a positive learning environment. Grace is a great addition to the class and her cuteness is hard to resist sometimes, but it definitely makes me excited to get to Science class in the morning.

Going based of your state, NY standards, I found that all types of venomous organisms are banned.Now this does produce a bit of a gray are as you said, however, I would first recommend following up with the Board of Education of your county to see if there are any exceptions. Most likely, they will still consider it venomous and unsafe for a classroom because a student at any given time can put their finger in or want to touch its texture. 

Although not considered a direct threat, it poses as a potential lawsuit. Any parent who's child has been impacted in any shape or form can bring a case to light that that animal should not have been there to begin with. 

if you do decide to proceed with the pet, I recommend sending out information letters to parents informing them of the possible dangers and be sure to go over them with each child.

Hope this helped!

Jonathan Marin Jonathan Marin 435 Points

Yes, start with fish. It will bring color and life to the class. Children love the responsibility of having to feed the fish, too. 

Barbara Searcy Barbara Searcy 630 Points

Have you consider what lesson plans can be used with the animal , safety, animal behaviour, genetics, etc? These lesson plans and  learning goals can be submitted to principal in request for having it in the classroom. For example, raising betta fish as lesson on genetics of color, iridensce, and tail shape and color variation. Resource-,  Get fish online or through Petsmart.Or  include a lesson on animal behaviuor  with teaching betta fish to do tricks as stimulus response, while including international alliance with betta clubs around the world and where betta fish originated. . Another lesson plan can relate to  watching and counting birds in a Project Feeder watch outside the classroom with bird feeders. The students can participate as citizen scientists recording their data to Cornell labs. This can be enhanced to Darwin finches as  students record beak differences of feeding.   Thank you Enjoy this in the classroom.

Yolanda Tzoc Yolanda Tzoc 940 Points

I was having trouble getting butterflies for my life cycle lesson. I got many ideas on where to get animals for my next lessons.

Jasmin Delgado Jasmin Delgado 840 Points

THis would be a great conversation to have with other teachers that have had classroom pets before or an administrator that may know that rules a tad better. You honestly can never go wrong with fish, rabbits or possibly hamsters.  

Heather Grimes Heather 730 Points

I think it is great that you are wanting to include authentic learning experiences for your students, although, I think there is a lot to it. I would first check with the district/ school policy and go from there. It is important to look at any possible allergies as well.

Emily Jackson Emily Jackson 580 Points

These are such great ideas! Even just simple bugs keep students very intrigued, so I love the idea of incorporating activities into the class pets.

Michelle Khan Michelle Khan 1075 Points

This is so intriguing because I want to have an animal in my classroom, and even the simpliest animals like fish or a hamster have to be apporved by the district and school.

Stephanie Gomez Stephanie 3690 Points

Hi! You could probably start with asking your principal. He/she is a good resource for these kind of things since they should know the policies from your school district and what is and isn't allowed. Following, you could also ask the School Officer as he should know the laws of your state with what could be in the classroom and what cannot. Moreover, be sure the parents are all aware if you plan to bring an animal to the classroom because some parents are weary of their child' health or safety, even if you feel the animal may be safe. Hope this helps!

Stephanie Lobo Stephanie Lobo 435 Points

You may also want to be careful because of allergies. Many students cant be in the same room as a cat or hamster. Allergies can really disrupt a way a student pays attention in your classroom. -Stephanie L

Sue Garcia Sue Garcia 42675 Points

I love all of these replies. I agree with all of them. I was the first science teacher at my school to have pets in the classroom. I got my pets after attending a class provided by my region collaborative. It was called "Pets in the Classroom". We learned the types of pets that work well within the classroom, how to care for them, potential problems, and learned a variety of hands on lessons that could be used In the classroom by the teacher. After taking the class, I even had a certificate issued to me, I wrote a proposal to my principal about why, what, and how I would use pets in the classroom. He approved and the rest was history. There were problems over the years, but most of them were handled; allergies (the students with severe allergies-only once with rabbits, were transferred to another science teacher, but the rabbit could have gone home for hat year because of all of the other animals). Students teasing the animals, a note home to the parents written by the offender usually stopped that problem, and finding homes for the animals over school vacations. I had tO be creative there, but it worked out. Some of my favorite animals were two ferrets owned by a set of twin boys. They brought them up on Mondays and brought them home on Fridays. They did this for sixth through eighth grade. My red-eared slider turtles. They started in a tank in the front of the room, they love to dive and you can train them to come to the surface to "beg" for their food. After several years we had to put them into a horse trough that was under one of the lab tables. And the lizards, you name it we had it. (Just do not get iguanas, they have talons that will cut you badly). I still have my blue tongue skink after retiring. Mice, rats, gerbils, hampsters, Guinea pigs, and ferrets in exercise balls-which is faster? What is their speed? Why is one faster than another? You have your kids attention and there are so many skills that you can teach!

Laura Pokrajac Laura Turek 1820 Points

I love the idea of a classroom pet and have both Turtles and fish in my life science classroom. They are great reference points for students and have helped others make deeper connections to content. I love the idea that was shared about solar powered pump and having students measure the water for different things!

Lilibeth Coello Lilibeth Coello 375 Points

Having a classroom pet can be a great way to show children responsibility, but as many others said there are things to take into concideration.

Anisa Cummings Anisa Cummings 1025 Points

I think having animals in the classroom is a wonderful idea. Classroom pets can help create a nurturing environment by allowing students to take on responsibilities. Students can learn what it feels like to be fully responsible for the well being of something similar to what their parents have to do on a daily bases with them. There are many ways to incorporate content around classroom pets assuming you will not have any students with allergies or fear of animals.

Brent Warren Brent Warren 95 Points

Don't bring in a ferret

Chih-Hsuan Chao Chih-Hsuan Chao 895 Points

For my opinion, I think I agree to bring the animals in the classroom but for specific subject such as life cycle so that children will have real life connection.

Kelly Kaleta Kelly Kaleta 625 Points

These are all great responses and I agree with everything here! I think animals in the classroom are a wonderful part of teaching science, especially for life sciences like Biology, etc. Having them there should be purpose-driven, however, so that students see a connection with the content being taught. I like to bring in monarch caterpillars and/or tadpoles when we talk about metamorphosis. We also have a variety of "pet" insects (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks) that we use when studying taxonomy and body-structures. A really important point here for me though is teaching our students to respect all living things that are in our classroom...that they are more than just 'specimens' so I expect them to follow all class rules regarding their care and treatment: there is no poking, prodding or unnecessary handling allowed! My students know it is a privilege to have our animal friends in the classroom and that I will take them home with me if I notice them being mistreated.

Shelby Royer Shelby Royer 980 Points

The school district that I am student teaching in has a center that teachers can check out animals and keep them in the class for a week. The teachers must go through a training but they have some pretty awesome pets. We have had rabbits, snakes, hissing cockroaches, and birds. Those are just the ones we have had so far.

Lorena Solis Lorena Solis 820 Points

Children can learn a lot from animals, and it's important to make sure they stay safe and healthy while they're learning. I would check with your school district first.

Zandra Russell Zandra Russell 980 Points

I love the idea of incorporating pets in the classroom and her children learn responsibility and of course more about animals. My aunt does this in her classroom where she teaches. I would just check with the district guidelines.

Briyania Nugent Briyania Nugent 850 Points

I think it would be best to speak with your principal for approval. I think bringing an animal to the classroom is a great idea, especially when studying species. However, it is important to follow guidelines, therefore to be safe.. check!

Amy Villanueva Amy Villanueva 1050 Points

That's a good question! I had never thought about restrictions when it came to animals in a classroom. I guess I'll have to do some researching too for I am definitely planning on having a pet in my classroom.  

Summer Robinson Summer Robinson 595 Points

I would contact your school district office and get more information from them. If they cannot answer your question, they can give you the right person. I would wait until you have an official job and ask the principal. I do know that many school districts do not allow any type of lizards. This is because many of them carry diseases on their skin. As a future teacher as well, I think it best to wait until you have a job lined up to see what your school and school district is doing and allows in the classrooms.

It has been such a long time ago since I was in elementary school, but the few parts of it that I remember were related to animals both within and outside of the classroom. I think it is a wonderful idea if it is financially tangible for either administration or teachers. It can be utilized to teach responsibility while simultaneously relating it to various lesson plans. Whether it is an aquarium where the children get to feed the fish or individual tiny jars where the students get to watch various developmental stages for particular insects.

Steve Collins Steve Collins 50 Points

It is better if you keep dogs or cats who are friendly other animals might not be a good idea to bring. But cleanliness has be maintained.

Yvis Lauzurique Yvis Lauzurique 4135 Points

I was thinking about having a butterfly in my classroom when we start talking about the life cycles of a butterfly.

Beverly Owens Beverly Owens 1045 Points

I have used one of those Painted Lady butterfly kits. The kids loved them!

Sarah Estakhri Sarah Estakhri 1400 Points

I think animals are very appropriate in an elementary science class. They give children intrinsic motivation to learn about their classroom pet. It's a real world connection to why life cycles are important to know. Also, the teacher can alternate allowing students to take the pet home each weekend. Doing that will help children understand what it's like to be responsible. Maybe a turtle, hamster, fish, or hermit crab would be an example of an appropriate classroom pet.

Ariel Roy Ariel Roy 640 Points

My students and I have both enjoyed having a caterpillar in the classroom to view. We discuss our observations on a daily basis and I am also able to create a classroom job for my students. The classroom job consists of cleaning the caterpillar's home and replenishing the plants. the second job consists of plant maintenance to ensure the plants have water and sun exposure.

Shannyn Quirante Shannyn Quirante 805 Points

I think having a class pet would be a wonderful addition to the classroom. I had a class pet in 3rd grade and I remember enjoying 3rd grade very much because of him. He was a guinea pig and we were able to play with him and let him crawl on our bodies. I think class pets would be a great way for all students to not only learn about different animals and how they grow, but it would also be a good motivation for students to want to come and learn everyday.

Eugenia Ruiz Eugenia Ruiz 970 Points

Definitely check with the school and districts policies first. Then if you need more information if an animal is child friendly, visit a nearby pet store, someone who's experienced and knows about the car us such aquatic animals may help you out.

Kim Rivera Kim Rivera 920 Points

My district brings critters to the schools in the spring. Different ones for different grade levels, and at the end of the school year they pick them up. it is awesome to watch snails, butterflies, fish, grasshoppers, their ecosystems; and how they develop in their life-cycles from birth. The students take pictures, draw, label, predict, infer, and LOVE being responsible for them. It is the highlight of their science school year! It makes for great conversations, learning opportunities, and a vested interest in science and the ecosystem!

Karla Mendez Karla Mendez 210 Points

Agreed! I believe it will allow students not only interact educationally but with each and learn to create relationships with each other. Most successful students are those that communicate more with fellow classmates and work in groups. Using snails, butterflies, fish, grasshoppers, etc will allow students to converse and create equalities about their interests this in affect will allow students to learn efficiently and productively. What limitations do teachers have incorporating pets into the classroom? Do teachers have to create permission slips for students to have these kind of interactions?

Alma Pedraza Alma Pedraza 100 Points

Hi, I think this will be a great idea for the classroom. The children will like to observe not only the fish but the different objects inside the tank. This will also allow the children to work together to see what similar and different things they see. The children will also be able to observe the changes within the tank and with the fish as well. If this is allowed then i think this will be a great idea for the classroom. Good luck!

Denisse Guajardo Denisse Guajardo 180 Points

I would suggest you start off by reading this- NSTA Position Statement on Live Animals and Dissection in the Classroom. . Then you can ask the superintendent of the school if animals are allowed in the classroom. Considering the students around would be great due to allergies, illnesses and any other health issues or complications . Instead of displaying animals , is there another idea you have in mind to prevent issues ?

Sara Pierce Sara Pierce 3922 Points

I am interested in if anyone know the requirements for Iowa schools and live animals in classroom?

Brittney Geelhaar Brittney Geelhaar 760 Points

It is slightly disappointing that there are so many hurdles to jump through, now, if a teacher wishes to acquire a classroom pet. I can appreciate concerns about allergies, but with proper precautions in a large enough classroom, I feel like it shouldn't be an issue. With that mindset, should we avoid taking children outdoors, as well? But, policies are policies. I can definitely see, though, how having a classroom animal could be an valuable resource for teachers and a source of engagement for students. I am hoping to have my own furry or scaly resident in my future classroom, Maryland/ district policies permitting.

Andrzelika Pedowska Andrzelika Pedowska 980 Points

I would talk to the principal and make sure that it is okay to bring in whatever type of animal you are trying to bring into your classroom. I would also check district policies to see what is permitted and what is not. You should also consider allergies! I think that animals are a great way to keep kids engaged! Great idea. I've been in several classrooms with hermit crabs, fish, and other little creatures.

Stephanie Blunk Stephanie Blunk 3725 Points

I think that animals in the classroom are a wonderful idea and great learning experience for students. I don't ever remember any of my teachers having classroom pets when I was in school, but I always thought it would be so cool! I think it would be a nice thing to have for some students who may struggle with some things, but it is important to keep allergies in mind. I think classroom pets would be a fantastic way for students to learn responsibility. They could take turns caring for the pet in order to teach responsibility as well as science. I think pets could also possibly be seen as a distraction, but that's why it is so important to know your students. It is also important to think about what type of pet you would want as a teacher, and how much responsibility it will be fore you (cost, cleaning, etc.) As a pre-service teacher I would love to have pets in my future classroom someday.

Emilly Carter Emilly Collins 960 Points

I am also a preservice teacher. I am currently student teaching and my CT has two turtles and a snake. The students love them! She even uses them in the math class just to connect with the students.

Brooke Bartels Brooke Bartels 4295 Points

That is some good questions. I haven't even thought about animals in the classroom. The only animals/insects/bugs I have seen in a classroom are cockroaches used throughout a science unit. But what you have mentioned would take talking to administration about policies and such. Maybe they have to talk to higher up members/their bosses. You may be the first to come to them with these sort of questions. However, I think finding out whether or not animals/bugs/insects are allowed in your classroom is an opportunity. Having actual animals/bugs/insects to check out/ experiment with/etc. would be so cool for your students to use hands on. Great Post!

Sydney Murillo Sydney Murillo 3315 Points

I think animals in the classroom are a great learning experience. Kids getting to observe animals instead of just researching them makes for more meaningful connections. The type of pet you bring in has to be related to the standards which you can find on the Next Generation Science Standards you just have to google it. I remember when I had a chicken in my classroom and we learned about the life cycle of the chicken. It was a great learning experience and I will always remember it.

Gabe Kraljevic Gabe Kraljevic 4564 Points

Live animals definitely make science real and more interesting than pictures, books, etc. I kept animals in my classrooms my entire career and they add a distinct difference. You can always find a use for them in nature of science standards and often in core knowledge. Besides the legal end, there are some practical things you have to consider:

What care do they need over the weekend and breaks

Summer break provides its own problems: Do you take them home and care for them yourself? Can you transport them? (fish in aquariums, in particular)  In my province it is illegal to transport live fish unless you just bought them and have the receipt from the store or if you obtain a permit from the conservation office. Will the summer custodial staff take care of them for you?

What contingencies do you have if they escape?

Experimenting with vertebrates in classrooms is usually considered unethical unless it just observation and maybe tropisms. i.e. attraction/repulsion from light; temperature gradients. Always being careful to keep the parameters withing the tolerance of the species.

There are several species of butterflies that can be purchased and make a spectacular project for you class. Monarchs and painted ladies are found in almost all of North America - so there is not likely to be a ban in our state/province. I found that insects you can buy at a pet store are usually very easy to keep and, because they are invertebrates, you can do some ethical experimentation without too much concern. If you can buy them in a pet store you don't have to worry about invasive species legislation, etc.

I always had: 

Stick insects ( Carausius morosus) IF THEY ARE ALLOWED IN YOUR AREA! They can become invasive species. I was lucky because living in a very cold part of Canada these are legal and can't live in the wild...well, they can live only until winter![ Easy to keep: feed them heads of romaine lettuce 'planted' in a jar of water. You'll probably only have to feed them once every couple of weeks. [/li] [li]Indian Stick Insects are parthenogenic! They are flightless and all female. They produce clones of themselves by laying unfertilized eggs. IF you happen to kill off the colony (over summer), the eggs are usually sitting in the terrarium and will hatch out. The first instar (right after hatching) is tiny and cute. They are rather fun to try and find in the terrarium.[If they escape they are harmless vegetarians but they will find other plants in the school! (if you see chewed leaves look for them on that plant!)

Mealworms  these are beetle larvae from the family Tenebrionidae. (Darkling Beetles) Because they are beetles they go through the same type of life cycle as butterflies: egg - larva - pupa - adult. They eat rolled oatmeal with wheat germ or brewer's yeast added for protein. (many recipes online) You provide water by placing carrots, apple cores, etc on paper towels on top of the oatmeal. They are poor climbers and don't fly. You can have them in an open plastic food container. Their pupae are very cool. They look totally different.  Adults are dark brown beetles and they reproduce easily. You can feed your fish with them if you have a population explosion.

Superworms - same family of beetle as the mealworm but much larger. Same lifecycle and same care. Poor climbers, easy to feed. They won't pupate unless they are on their own! So, to observe the life cycle, move the largest ones into individual plastic cups with food. They will pupate and eventually metamorphose into large black beetles. Reunite the adults to get the next generation. I think you should remove the adults after a while - they may eat each other.

Crickets - I don't recommend them. They escape easily and stink. They also don't last long and breeding is very difficult.

Aquarium -get an automatic feeder and you won't have to worry about weekends, breaks, etc. Although tropical fish are fine, I obtained permits to catch wild fish and make an ecosystem of species that belong in our area. Just smaller, minnow-like fish. A friend of mine would net larger fish and keep a large tank in his room.  I set up a vegetation aquarium to keep Elodea and duckweed. Elodea is great under the microscope. Just pluck a leaf and make a wet mount. You'll see chloroplasts and cytoplasmic streaming. You can do hypo-, hyper- and isotonic solution experiments and observe the vacuole expanded, contracted, etc. Use pond water and you will have a tank full of protozoans that you can also observe.

Hope this helps,

Nayeli Salas Nayeli Salas 990 Points

Hi Tyler, I am a preservice teacher and this was a great topic to read about. Once I have my own classroom, my goal is to have a classroom pet as well. I will be taking the advice everyone has given you in the previous comments into consideration when preparing for my own classroom. As many people have mentioned, a great place to start is within your district. Ask the administration in your school what is allowed. I would also check and confirm if any of your students are allergic to animals. I hope everything works out and you are able to get a class pet. =)

Karen Aleman Karen Aleman 290 Points

Hi I think the best way to find out is going over your schools policies of which animals are/ are not allowed in their classrooms. Does this vary from district to district or does the state fully decides which animals are and are not allwed? Can it be up to the discretion of each district to decide which animals they will allowed in their classroom?

Breanna Wetzel Breanna Wetzel 2390 Points

Hi Tyler, 

  I am a preservice teacher and I have never had any class pets while attending school. I love the idea of you including a pet to help students learn. I know I would have enjoyed to have a pet to observe while in class. Like others have said, I think having a fish tank or an outside birdfeeder would be a safe bet due to allergies. However, I would check with your school district to see if animals are allowed and if so, the policies you would have to follow to keep the animal in your classroom. 

Diana Roscoe Diana Roscoe 1103 Points

Hi Tyler, I love love Dorothy's suggestion to keep binoculars and a bird feeder visible through the classroom window! Don't know why I never thought of that. A butterfly gardern close to the window whould also be a great idea! Creating these features could be a great after school activity that involved parents or other subject areas or the entire school. 


TyAnna Stevenson TyAnna Stevenson 350 Points

In planning to have my own homeroom, considering the upsides and downsides of having a class pet is significant. While I concur with past posts that having a pet is an extraordinary method to assist understudies with taking responsibility for homeroom, practice duty via thinking about the creature, and rouse interest and research, I likewise value everybody's recommendation on safety measures and even potential destructions of removing creatures from their common habitat. In a perfect world, it would be fabulous for children to take heaps of field outings to participate in learning encounters in 'this present reality'. Strategically and monetarily this isn't a productive alternative more often than not. So its essential to bring an assortment of genuine curios and example into the study hall to enhance learning encounters. The morals worry in regard to having creatures confined in your group is something imperative to consider. I think ought to be a point of exchange among understudies before getting a class pet. On the off chance that understudies choose having a pet is deceptive, I truly like the winged creature feeder choice. Winged animal watching should be possible anyplace. Getting bugs and afterward returning them to their common living space may likewise be a decent bargain to having a pet. I think its imperative to show basic intuition for understudies and will keep gauging the advantages and disadvantages of having creatures in the homeroom

Brian Kucera Brian Kucera 585 Points

I believe it’s a fantastic idea to have animals in the classroom! However, for me, I would like to take a small approach and see how students react before getting a larger type of pet. One example would be mealworms. Students learn about producers, consumers, and decomposers throughout their science education, and mealworms are great to help teach that. They also go through life cycle changes which could be excellent question drivers to peak student interest. These are just some ideas to test the waters, but again I think having pets in the classroom is a great idea!

Anne Lowry Anne Lowry 8543 Points

Pets in the classroom can be a great idea, but having had a variety of animals in and out of the classroom  (sheep, rabbits, goats, fish, lizards, aquatic frogs), let me offer some logistics to consider.  Some, I know are repeats.  Please treat this as a living document and add to it!

Rules and regulations of your school / district

Alllergies of all involved:  students, teachers, staff, families that might come in contact

Special habitat requirements:  do they need heat 24/ 7, filters runnings, etc

Habitat maintenance:  how often does the cleaning need to be done, and who is going to do it

Cost:  who pays for the feed, habitat materials (bedding, replacement filters, etc).  What about required shots and vet bills?  Vet emergencies?

Breaks:  who is either coming in to take care or who is taking the animals home.  And how will the animal(s) be transported?

Closely related:  imclement weather policies:  if you have, let's say, rabbits outside, what do you do during extreme tempratures / bad air quality days?

Where is the animal going to go?  What do you need to move / eliminate from your classroom to make room for the animal and all its belongings


I know that my tiny little classroom with a big window opted for 'adopting' the birds outside, putting up feeders, choosing plants birds we onserved liked, and essentially doing everything that we would do with a non-touchable pet indoors, with a lot less hassle


Hope this helps



Dominique Bailey Dominique Bailey 165 Points

I think Animals in the classroom is a great way to bring learning to life. students will be able to connect to the material and make learning fun and enjoyable.

Jennifer Hicks Jennifer Hicks 680 Points

I think when you are considering having animals in your clasroom you need to think about what is best for the animal along with what is best for your students. You should take into consideration the preferred living environment for the animals and if they like having a lot of exposure to people. You also need to think about the students that you have and their maturity level. If you cen't trust them to respect the animal and it's space then it is best to not get an animal. When you reference venomus animals specifically then you need to have a really good understandong of your students. 

Zach Millan Zach Millan 639 Points

Our school has similar rules, but one teacher has gotten approval for taxidermied versions of dangerous animals (in this case a venomous snake. Not sure what they would say about a taxidermied lion in the classroom!). He will use these as a teaching tool and reminds students that they are only for display. In my classroom, I have a ball python who has never given me issues in terms of administrative approval. Their only stipulation is that I keep the ball python in the classroom and don't walk around the halls with him. Sorry to hear about your fish though!

Lily Albertson Lily Albertson 530 Points

The teacher I student taught with had multiple animals in it. Some were her pets that she brought in and her fish tank was bought specifically for teaching. She has GloFish to give an example of biotechnology such as genetic modification. It allows students to see first hand a form of genetic modification. She has a close relationship with the principal to ensure everything is safe, sanitary, and allowed. 

Emily Fiebig Emily Fiebig 170 Points

I think that animals in the classroom are very helpful in teaching students about the life cycle, gathering data, and having a hands on approach to caring for a living item. Classroom animals also help to get students excited about the learning process and keeps them engaged in learning. Classroom animals can be utilized as a behavorial reward for making good choices; the student may work towards a specific job once they have earned all their rewards. Classroom animals also bring a sense of community into the classroom.

Having a classroom animal can be beneficial to the learning experience but some districts restrict animals in the classroom for liability concerns, student allergies, and safety issues. 

Nicole Anthony Nicole Anthony 702 Points

I am currently pursuing my MAT and I have not encountered animals in the classroom, I do know a teacher that kept bearded dragons in her classroom for the students to observe. I would check to see what your school district says. I would also check with the policy is at your school as well. They might have a specific policy about having animals in the classroom that is not as broad as the districts. 

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