Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pets in the Classroom - Teaching Responsibility and Last chunk of Giveaway

Do you have an animals in your classroom? I mean, other than the ones sitting at desks and tables *wink*.
Tell me about them. I want photos and stories!

I have a long history of animals in my classroom. It's a little joke worthy, being the girl with the zoo in her room, but fun. I've had rats (by far my favorite), fish, Anoles (lizards), mice, a mean little Hamster, finches, hermit crabs, and bunnies. At this moment, I have only the buns and the fish. I am getting grand-babies of the prolific pair of finches I had two years ago, which nearly singled-handedly populated many classrooms in my school. I have two new fish, because all my other fish died the day before school started.

The buns are named Mr. Buns and Lady Pouf Pouf. Here is a photo of them (warning: baby wabbit talk incoming!):

AaaawwWWWWW! Don't you wanna squish dare widdle bunny buns wight in your wap? 

The new fish are named Nacho and Lolita. They have survived day 1 in the "tank of death", as I now call it. 

So why all the animals? I have a list:
Caring for them models and encourages compassion and responsibility
It creates a soft and warm environment
They are fun
They are cute
They eat extra non-eaten fruit and veggie snacks or lunches (classroom composting!)
They make you the most sought-after teacher in the school 

Now I know what you are thinking; "It's too much work. They eat and poop and I don't want to deal with that. Ever." I have a solution for that, too. Kids want to take care of the let them. It takes a little modeling and guided release, but children are fully capable of taking excellent care of the class pets. So how do you do that?

I started on the second week of school. I left the buns at home until that point, because I wanted to make sure I didn't have any severe allergies and I wanted to let my class settle in without them. On Monday of the second week, we sat down together at morning meeting and made a list of all the things animals, wild and domesticated, need to be healthy and happy. It turns out they need pretty much the same things! We made a venn diagram to illustrate the similarities and differences between their needs. The whole point to get a discussion going about what your class pets need to be healthy and happy; then you discuss how they get the things they need to do that.  

That brainstorm reduces down into a list of care-taker responsibilities, which I call our "Zoo Keepers' Promise". It looks like this:

The students have now made a promise to do these things daily to keep our class pets healthy and happy. We do discuss how different class pets have different needs. This list was made mostly with the bunnies in mind. 

Then I assign 2 Zoo Keepers for the week. During first recess I show the Zoo Keepers how to lift the bunnies, carry them, give them food, give them water, clean their litter box (did you know rabbits use a litter box? So do rats!!) and give them treats. I show them how to take the bunnies into the courtyard and how to set a kitchen timer so they know when it's time to come back in. 

After I model and they practice, I show them the Class Pet Caretaking Journal. 

Each different type of pet has its own journal. Inside the students keep track of exactly what they do each day to care for the pets. Here's a peek at the inside:

The Caretaking Journal really builds in responsibility. The kids have a list of things that need to be done, and they check them as they complete each task. I can also look and see when the bunnies got treats, if they got played with, when they last got clean water, and how their litter is holding up. It's slick! My favorite part is that I give out pencil toppers (which special jungle themed pencils) and a certificate congratulating the Zoo Keepers for a job well done.

If you are interested in the Zoo Keeper Class Pet Care Kit, you can find it at my TPT store:

Now, that additional MEGA GIVEAWAY!! Here are the first three giveaway you can enter. To see details, visit my prior posts about the 200 follow giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here's the fourth and newest giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

That is a total of 21 items!!! WOWZA! The drawings are on Monday. Enter them all!!


  1. Wowza is right! I'm not quite sure what I would do with the winnings, but I'm sure I'd find things to use in my classroom.

  2. After I screamed and danced my heart out, I would have so much picking out wonderful new units for my classroom! What a great giveaway!

  3. What would I do with all the winnings? I would go a little but crazy! :D I would find ways to use them all in my classroom.

  4. Hi Heather!!

    Wow, what amazing giveaways!!! I feel like I've been spending so much money at TPT lately, so it would be nice to get some things for free! There are so many great teacher-made things on there that it can be hard to decide what to buy!! :) Congrats on 200!

    Lessons with Laughter

  5. Awww... I wish I could have a class pet. My district won't let us. (super sad face) Maybe I should send them here to read your post. The zookeeper binder is brilliant to help them keep track of everything that needs to be done. I'm sure the kids love it! On a total side note, I love the story Nacho and Lolita so the fact that your fish are named after them warms my heart. Is one fish brightly colored? So cute!

    The Teaching Thief

  6. Two years ago I inherited a Guinea Pig, Princess. Well, actually, one day I said "Maybe we should have a class pet" and the following Monday Princess arrived. It was all well and good until the next year - the parents were not interested in taking her home for the weekend. Sadly, I decided it would be best if Princess went to a home where there was stability. A lovely family from the school offered to take her and she is now a part of a family of three children, two dogs and 2 other guinea pigs. She is happier that she has all that company. I'm thinking this year I may send home my stuffed Husky, Slush....Love that you have are able to expose your students to so many wonderful animals!

    Take care.