Keeping Classroom Animals

Keeping Classroom Animals

Animals can be a wonderful resource to enhance learning and understanding in the classroom. Many children today have limited exposure to wildlife and animals. Having an animal in the classroom allows children to observe and study an animal first hand. It allows for the observation of animal life cycles and behaviors. Classroom animals also teach students responsibility as they care for the needs of the animal. It teaches students to treat animals with respect, understand their needs and meet those needs.

Classroom animals must be chosen with care. Considerations:

  • Safety of your students is first and foremost, chose an animal that is appropriate for the age-level of your students.
  • Consider the needs of the animal and whether or not you and your class will be able to provide for the animals basic needs and welfare.
  • Keep in mind the logistics of keeping a classroom animal. Is it an animal that can be left at school during weekends? What is the plan for holidays? Who is going to provide vet care if the need arises?
  • Is there a permit required to obtain and/or keep your chosen animal? What are the regulations of your school district? (For example, in Iowa, you may collect and keep tadpoles and frogs if you have a valid fishing license. Research your state laws and regulations before you obtain any animal.)

Fish, frogs, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and small mammals are common classroom pets. Also consider ant farms, worm farms, and insects. Consider having an “observation” tank or aquarium that can house various animals through the year on a revolving basis. For example, use it to observe grasshoppers for a week in the fall, spiders during the winter, and tadpoles in the spring.

Helpful Links

Pets in the Classroom (resources and grants to help pay for supplies for classroom pets)

Pets in the Classroom Study

Check out these WILD Activities:

First Impressions (K-4)

Designing a Habitat (3-5, 6-8)

Changing Attitudes (5-8)

Cross-reference to these WILD units for more information:

Iowa’s Wildlife Habitat

People and Wildlife


photo credit: Claudia Zimmer