Keeping it Real: Animals In the Classroom

Sunday, 24 February 2019


Several years ago I led a College for Kids class for preschoolers called Creepy Crawlies. Each child came with a grownup to listen to stories, play games, and make crafts about bugs.

At the end of the four sessions, parents filled out an evaluation form.  One response was memorable!  "She tried really hard, but I wished she had brought in some real bugs for the kids to see."

Ouch! To this day I can still feel the "sting" of that comment.  I felt so stupid!  Of course, there should have been some REAL bugs!

That comment changed my thinking about the kind of experiences I wanted to provide children.

Since then, I've brought many animals into the classroom including chicks, tadpoles, snails, caterpillars, crickets, ladybugs, worms, a rabbit, and even once a snake (yikes!).

Thinking of getting a class pet? Ideas for ways to bring worms and other animals into the kindergarten or first grade classroom to launch animal  informational writing or reports.

Doing so has allowed me to move beyond just teaching ABOUT these animals to providing children with real experiences where they could learn from their own observations.

But bringing animals in, means knowing where to get them, and that isn't always easy.  Here are a few things you might try!

Ask Families

Your own students might have pets at home that you might be able to borrow for a short time.  Let the class interview the "pet owner," who might be a classmate or a family member, to learn more about the animal and how to care for it.

Check Your Local Zoo

In our area, we have a program called, Zoo to You, where we schedule an annual visit from a zoo staff member who brings three animals for the children to observe, touch, and learn about.  Check your nearby zoo or nature center to see if they offer a similar program.

Thinking of getting a class pet? Ideas for ways to bring animals into the kindergarten or first grade classroom to launch animal informational writing or reports.

Obtain a Grant

The organization, Pets in the Classroom,  provides grants for teachers to support them in finding a pet for their classroom. Pets include hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats, fish, guinea pigs, parakeets, bearded dragons, geckos, snakes, conures (birds), rabbits, and hermit crabs.

Order Online

Carolina Biological Supply Company is the leading supplier in science and math educational materials.  Just click on "Live Organisms" to find an impressive list of animals that can be ordered and delivered right to your classroom door. 

Order From Amazon

Looking for insects? Insect Lore provides several kits including ladybugs, ants, butterflies, and praying mantises and many are available on Amazon Prime.

Thinking of getting a class pet? Ideas for ways to bring ladybugs and other animals into the kindergarten or first grade classroom to launch animal informational writing or reports.

Check Your Backyard

Work with children to identify the habitat of a specific creature and then head outdoors to see if "anybody is at home."  Observe the animal in their habitat or create a temporary shelter to bring them indoors for a short period of time. 

Thinking of getting a class pet? Ideas for ways to bring bugs and other animals into the kindergarten or first grade classroom to launch animal informational writing or reports.

Before You Proceed

Before you put out the animal "welcome mat," check your school's policy on bringing animals into the classroom and inquire about any restrictions due to student allergies.

You'll also need to prep children for the visit by teaching them about proper care and handling. Children should wash their hands before and after touching animals to keep both parties safe. 

Follow-Up with Animal Research

Build upon children's interest and curiosity by using your animal visit to launch your animal research project.  If there was more than one animal involved, invite children to cast a vote for the animal they most want to learn about.  

If you are a bit unsure how to do a full-out research cycle with young children, you might try Ready, Set, Research to guide you and your kiddos down the research path. Included is a roadmap that will show you how to wonder, plan, investigate, review, create, and share right alongside children while learning about one of Earth's most interesting creatures. Choose your animal and off you go!

Thinking of getting a class pet? Ideas for ways to bring animals into the kindergarten or first grade classroom to launch animal informational writing or reports.

Wondering how to provide experiences with animals such as polar bears or penguins that we couldn't possibly bring into our classrooms?  Stay tuned for my next post, where I'll share with you how to use live animal cams to observe and study these "hands-off" creatures!

Thanks for stopping by! 

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