Affeld, Sharon. (2000).
Exploratory Analysis of the Impact and Benefit Of Having A Pet in the Classroom On Childrens Anxiety (excerpts only). Unpublished Masters' paper.
Goodwin, Jolie. (1999?).
The Benefits of Pets in the Classroom. Unpublished paper.
by Sharon Affeld (CA&P member #28)
contributed July 2000
Affeld, Sharon. (2000). Exploratory Analysis of the Impact and Benefit Of Having A Pet in the Classroom On Childrens Anxiety (excerpts only). Unpublished Masters' Project.
The following excerpts are from a University Master's Research Project by Sharon Affeld. In a University "project ", a study is designed but not actually carried out with real subjects. (Which is why we do not, therefore, have any "results" or "findings".)
Excerpt from CHAPTER ONE - INTRODUCTION
JUSTIFICATION OF THE STUDY
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (1995) The anxious child (On-line) Facts for Families © No. 47 http://www.aacap.org/publications/factsfam/anxious.htm
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (1995) Children and family moves (On-line) Facts for Families © No. 14 http://www.aacap.org/publications/factsfam/anxious.htm
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author
Barker, S. B. & Dawson, K. S. (1998), The effects of animal-assisted therapy on anxiety ratings of hospitalized psychiatric patients. Psychiatric Services Vol. 49 No. 6
Beidel, D.C. (1997) Anxious children American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 36: 918-924
Cozby, P.C. (1997) Methods in Behavioral Research (6th ed.) California: Mayfield Publishing Company
Dacey, J.S. & Fiori, L.B. (2000), Your anxious child: How parents and teachers can relieve anxiety in children Jossey-Bass Publishers
Day, F. (1997), A review of the literature on the effects of pets and pet therapy on all age groups. California: Polytechnic State University
Delta Society (1999) Animals and children Published by Delta Society USA
Delta Society (2000), Celebrating a life of compassion: Leo K. Bustad, DVM, PhD. A Tribute to the Man and His Work. Renton: Delta Society (On-line) http://petsforum.com/deltasociety/dst000.htm
Delta Society (2000) Animals helping people, people helping animals (On-line) http://petsforum.com/deltasociety/default.html
Dewey, John (1938), Experience and education New York: Macmillan
Hoelscher, K., & Garfat, T. (1993) Talking to the animal Journal of Child and Youth care, 8 (3), 87 - 92
Hoelscher, K., & Garfat, T. (1993) Talking to the animal Journal of Child and Youth care, 8 (3), 87 - 92
Huddart, S. (1998) Notes on animals in the classroom (On-line) http://www.cfhs.ca/humaneeducator/Issues/1998/he98-2P3.htm
Human Animal Bond Websites (2000) Pet Care Forum (On-line) Veterinary Information Network, Inc. http://www.vin.com/PetCare/Articles/AnimalIssues/PCF00064.htm
Jarolmen, J. (1998), A Comparison of the grief reaction of children and adults: focusing on pet loss and bereavement Baywood Publishing C. Inc. Omega, Vol. 37 (2) 133- 150
Kale, M. (1992), Teens at risk: Working with animals to create a new self-image. Interactions Vol. 10, No. 4
Keating, J. (2000), Friends indeed Canadian Living June 2000, pp. 145-148
Kellert, S., & Wilson, E. (Eds.). (1993). The Biophilia Hypothesis. Washington, DC: Shearwater Books.
Levinson, B. M. (1969), Pet-Oriented Child Psychotherapy Springfield: Charles C Thomas Publisher
Naherniak, C. (2000), Classroom animals: More than responsible pet care BC SPCA Education Division (On-line) http:/www.spca.bc.ca/profound.htm
New York Times, (Reuters) Oct 02 Bullied Children Younger, Anxious article referenced on the British Medical Journal 1998; 317:924-925.
Owens, R & Williams, N. (1995), A New Breed of Teacher's Pet Teaching K-8 October 1995
Pet Therapy Society of Northern Alberta (1997) Paws in the classroom (On-line) http://paws.shopalberta.com/PClassroom.htm
Rapee, R., Craske, M., & Barlow, D. (1997), The Causes of Anxiety and Panic Attacks. (On-line). http://www.algy.com/anxiety/files/barlow.html
Reynolds, C. & Richmond, B.O. (1985) Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale (RCMAS) California: Western Psychological Services
Salvia, J. & Yesseldyke, J. (1998), Assessment Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Valiquette, J. (undated), Animals as an agent for change in private practice psychotherapy Proposed Thesis Topic (On-line) http:/members.xoom.com/JaxNix/thesis/
by Jolie Goodwin (member # 22, USA)
contributed May 1999
Goodwin, Jolie. (1999?). The Benefits of Pets in the Classroom. Unpublished paper.
Pets in Progress
Upon hearing a soft knock, I opened my classroom door to find my headmaster holding the hand of a very teary child. He introduced the timid boy to me, explaining that it was his first day. My headmaster told me he had tried two rooms previously and could not get the child to enter through the door. I glanced back at my class and turned again to see the young boy slide behind my headmaster's tall leg. I got down on one knee and welcomed the child. He peered out at me, but made no move to venture from his new hiding place. My headmaster then whispered to me, "I suddenly remembered you had a rabbit." As if on cue, one of my young female students came over and reached out her hand and said, "Would you like to come in and see our pet Bunny? His name is Bailey and he LOVES us!" I motioned for the students to move to the floor and we let Bailey, our beloved classroom rabbit, out of his cage. The boy stepped into the room and within a five minute span went from tears to giggles as the small, brown, furry critter nibbled on his shoelace.
This is only an example of what an animal can bring into the lives of children, as well as adults. Many questions are brought to mind when one contemplates the impact of these animals. Can animals help bring out or strengthen some of the stronger traits we are constantly searching for in children? If they can, how can we, as parents and teachers, facilitate that outcome? Can having a pet in the classroom help teach children? What does it teach them? Can an animal actually bring about positive changes in people in the domains of emotion, health, and / or cognition? These are all questions that are constantly being discussed by teachers, psychologists, social workers, parents, and even certain organizations such as the Delta Society, Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), and Fidelco. Animals can have a profound impact on children through interaction. This paper will attempt to come up with some possible answers to the above questions by looking into current research, interviewing children and teachers, and reflecting upon personal experiences as a teacher who keeps animals in the classroom. Following this discussion will be lists of the pros and cons of keeping a pet in the classroom generated by teachers and children, as well as research results. Personal anecdotes based on different types of animals in the classroom and possible lessons that could include a classroom pet will also be incorporated. Animals can provide an additional aspect to education that not only is important, but essential to creating a well-rounded individual.
An understanding of the way children go about the process of creating healthy bonds can be found by examining their interactions not only with people, but also with animals. The notion that all humans have an innate, biologically based need for social interaction is agreed upon by Bowlby (1958) and Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, and Wall (1978). People are constantly seeking things that will relax them, relieve stress, bring happiness, and / or enhance emotional stability. For the child, the attempt to make social bonds can be difficult as other children often are making the same attempts elsewhere, or on different developmental levels. A pet can serve as an additional attachment. I remember all too well coming home as a child and burying my tears and difficult times in the fur of the family dog. I recall explaining things to the dog, telling it all the things that went wrong that particular day knowing full well the only response I would get would be licks with a long, wet tongue. Somehow, it made me feel better. Considering the results of a study conducted by Triebenbacher (1998) that state that 90% of pet owners talk to their pets, I realize this is a common behavior. Many children just want their feelings validated and often do not receive this outcome when presenting their problems to adults. People tend to want to solve other people's problems or attempt to cheer them up. Often, a pet fulfills the need of the child simply by being there. Robin and ten Bensel (1985) believe the desire children have for proximity and an emotional bond is congruent with attachment behavior towards humans. Robin and ten Bensel call the relationship between child and pet, "simpler and less conflicted than human relationships" (21, p.66). Kidd and Kidd (1995) conducted a study asking children to draw a picture. The picture could contain themselves and / or family members and / or pets. It is interesting to note that children who owned pets drew themselves significantly closer to their pet than to their family member. In response to the importance of child / pet relationships, Kidd and Kidd state that "perhaps relationships with pets are more accepting and less complex than those with family members. Pets do not scold, criticize, or demand behavior changes" (p. 239). I cannot think of a person who would not benefit from this type of relationship. This is not to undermine the strength and importance of human relationships, but simply to note that animals can complement these relationships in more ways than one.
The question of whether animals are beneficial to humans seems to have an answer. The question of how exactly they are able to provide these benefits remains. Also, exactly what are the benefits they can bring? Sable (1995) suggests that pets have a place in our intrinsic desire to make close bonds. Is it possible that pets can serve as facilitators in strengthening present bonds? I know that having pets in my classroom brought the students closer together through shared jobs and interests. The animal became a focus for some children, and suddenly there was a new friend with a common interest. In Kidd and Kidd's study mentioned previously, there were other interesting conclusions made from the children's drawings. It was observed that out of the group of pet owning children, 100% of these children included a family member in their picture. However, 35% of the children who did not own pets drew a picture of only themselves. If it is possible for a pet to bring a family or a group closer together, the arguments for not owning a pet should become null and void. So many families are trying to achieve these results in other fashions. If even the possibility exists that a pet could strengthen families, that in itself is enough reason to make the effort.
In addition to strengthening existing bonds, contact with animals can have other effects on children as well. Their overall social health and emotional well being could be improved through interaction with animals. Kidd and Kidd state that "to help children grow up to be happy, healthy adults by adapting and adjusting to a rapidly changing world, it is important to find ways to study the emotional relationships between children and animals as well as other human beings" (p. 238). There are teams within schools consisting of regular education teachers, special education teachers, social workers, psychologists, etc. These teams are always implementing lessons, groups, discussions, and role-plays to attempt to show children ways to adapt, improve their social skills, and even alleviate academic stress and social problems. Could having an animal in the classroom correlate with these lessons? Could the pet even help children move towards independence in these goals? Triebenbacher seems to believe this is true. She states, "The benefits of pet ownership and attachment to animals include minimizing emotional trauma, helping to alleviate some emotional problems as well as fears and loneliness, to lessen anxiety during times of stress, to promote good mental and physical health for both children and adults, and provide noncontingent unconditional love and opportunities for affection" (p. 192). Children are faced with many obstacles throughout their school days. Often pets can have calming effects on children and even make them feel loved. By adding this factor into their lives not only at home, but also in the classroom, teachers are empowering their children to not only learn interesting things in a new way, but also to seek out a possible stress reduction method. Triebenbacher conducted a study based on this belief. She interviewed children regarding their feelings about pets.
Here are some interesting statistics based on her interviews.
Since animals appear to play such an important role in the emotional well being of children, many people believe that it is the role of the teacher to try to provide the things that enable children to progress in this area. The level of progression a child can make is inconsequential. Animals can make a difference in the life of a three-year-old autistic child in the same way they can with a retired banker. Their love is universal, nonjudgmental, and unconditional. I recently took a few students to a pet store on a field trip and observed one of my retarded sixth graders become enthralled with a young Shepherd puppy in the front of the store. He became completely absorbed in the animal, and extended a hand to make contact. I then watched in awe as he giggled while the dog licked his face. It was a sound I had not heard in the entire seven months that this boy had been my student. Groups mentioned previously, such as the Delta Society, CCI, and Fidelco also see the change that animals can bring to people who could greatly benefit from them. Fidelco spends their time and energy training German Shepherds to guide blind people through their lives, bringing them greater independence. These dogs have entered the lives of thousands of people - bringing smiles and newfound energy to live life. The Delta Society is constantly doing research in areas such as: the health benefits of animals pet loss and bereavement, using nature in education, animals as teachers and healers, etc. They even offer courses people can attend with their pets to get a special pet therapy license. This license allows a pet and their owner to enter places such as hospitals and nursing homes to foster the positive effects animals can have on people in extra need of love and attention. Canine Companions for Independence sets trained animals up with handicapped people to serve as a home aid for them. Similar to Fidelco, the dogs are trained to do things such as fetch the telephone and medicine containers, open doors, bring food from the refrigerator, etc. These companies change the lives of so many people. As educators, it is important to reflect on their research and contemplate the implications it has for the classroom.
Humans can begin to better understand themselves in relation to other beings through a relationship with animals. These relationships are fundamental to world building and human development (Naherniak 1995). Naherniak states, "If there is one thing that is most important for children to realize, it is that they share a world with other beings who have needs similar but not identical to theirs. This understanding helps to develop the child's confidence, empathy and respect for others" (p.2). Teachers have the unique opportunity to provide avenues that can help children make these realizations.
Some people see the addition of animals into the lives of children as something that is beneficial. Others go even further with this notion and call it is need. Kellert and Wilson (1993) suggest that the need humans have to interact with animals is critical in their development of their emotion, intellect, and personality. The word that stands out here is intellect. It has been made clear that children can benefit from animals in the domains of emotion and socialization, but can animals teach people in others areas as well? If they can, this has major implications for the way children are presently learning. Shepard (1982) even goes so far as to suggest that since people seem to be growing away from nature in the modern world, this is causing a psychological retardation in humans. Could simply incorporating a small pet into the classroom setup alleviate his proposed problem? By adding animals into our classrooms, our lessons, and our homes, what other benefits are possible? Could the pet enhance the behaviors and personality traits that teachers and parents are striving to mold in their children?
Kellert and Wilson offer through several studies the following
It appears as if animals can add benefits to the academic lives of students as well. Many educators that I talked with who kept animals in their classrooms said they discovered that the animals provided much more in their classroom than they had originally anticipated. Children learn to value all life forms, learn facts about the animals, but most importantly and most commonly agreed upon by these teachers, was that the animals increased student motivation. One teacher stated, "My students learned so much just from the simple presence of the animal. They practiced responsibility, they learned about the animal in a hands on manner, they learned a respect for animals and their rights, and they learned new ways to express love and emotion." I have a student this year who is so motivated by the tank of fish in my room that she will, for the first time ever, sit at a table and work math problems with me. The simple fact that she can be the one to feed the fish and turn out their light is enough for her to end her power struggle over math work. The fact that animals can be reinforcing can be brought to new levels when children enjoy the animals. I have had students who hate to write create elaborate plays about pirates just so they could use the classroom cockatiel as their first mate. Children will create wonderful, creative works in all areas using the animal as a model. I had students who created a science fair project using my pet snake to prove that snakes do not have ears. Not only can animals help out in these areas of academics, but they can also serve, as the push students need to go the extra mile. Some of the most imaginative, exquisite stories I have ever read written by children revolved around certain animals. With a creative mind and a twist on the traditional teaching outlook, animals can add so much into not only the classroom environment, but also into lessons. In the following section I will outline some ideas that can be incorporated into lessons taught by the teacher who keeps animals in the classroom. A wonderful way to instruct a new skill is to somehow incorporate it into a previously learned skill. Building on mastered skills helps children see connections and retain information. Children already know a lot about animals. By using the animals to bring in new information not only motivates children, but also is calling upon previously learned schema.
Information about animals can be incorporated into all areas
of a curriculum.
After having looked into reasons that provide a positive push towards having an animal in the classroom, it is important to also look at the aspects of pet care that cause many teachers to decide against using pets in their teaching profession. When speaking with teachers who own pets, their most common gripe was the difficulties the pet can cause over school vacations and summer break. Also, some teachers stated that it took a lot of time and energy to care for the animal. However, many other teachers stated that they have systems set up where they provide little to no care to the animal and that the students ran that aspect of caring for the animal.
The following is a list of the pros and cons generated from teachers, research from the Mining Company Guide to Elementary School Educators (1997) and the A.P.E. News (1995), as well as personal experience that go along with the adding a pet to your classroom and lessons.
This second list shows the negative aspects of keeping a pet in the classroom. It takes a person who not only has a love for animals, but who is willing to spend the extra time and effort that keeping animals in the classroom requires. The benefits of doing this, as mentioned throughout this paper, are enormous. It is difficult not to agree with the notion that by taking into account the potential positive outcomes of incorporating animals into the lives of children, this list of "cons" seems to hold less importance.
When an educator reaches the point where they have decided to add an animal to their classroom environment, the next question is obvious. Out of the numerous possibilities, which animal suits the teacher best, and what will that particular animal add to the lives of that teacher's students? Previously mentioned, from Triebenbacher's study, when asked what animal they would want the most, most children stated a dog as their first choice. Is a dog appropriate for the classroom? Given their demands for attention and exercise, the answer would be "No". However, the benefits of a dog in the classroom can be possible on a part time basis. Canine Companions for Independence has a program that matches service dogs with teachers of special needs children. When the animal is trained and available, the extent of the benefits from a few weeks with a visiting dog is innumerable. However, there are many obstacles to this type of visit. When I asked my principal if I could bring my well trained, five year old yellow lab to school for a week of research, I was told there is too much liability. I am not sure if I would receive different answers at different schools, but the fact that it was not possible for me shows that this is against the norm of the typical classroom pet, and the idea was not well received by administration. I continue to believe that if there is administration who agrees with the positive possibilities and parents are in agreement with the project, many good things could come from this type of animal intervention. However, there are many other options that would bring the positive results sought after. The Mining Company Guide to Elementary School Educators (1997) states the most popular classroom pets as: "turtles, frogs, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, rabbits, spiders, rats, parrots, crabs, guppies, goldfish, lizards, and snakes" (p.2). Having had personal experience with four of the animals on this list, I will take the next section to provide short anecdotes explaining the benefits and outcomes of the addition of these four different animals into my classroom and lessons.
The Year of the Snake
The Year of the Rabbit
The Year of the Bird
The Year of the Fish
Animals Brought in from the Outside
Upon the realization of what an animal can add to the lives of children, teachers should feel the need to react. Whether it is in mindful reflection, discussion with others, or action towards changes, the implications of this research provide to educators' new insight. This insight cannot be pushed away as the outcome is too powerful. Most people might say they knew animals could have an impact on children, but how much of an impact was unclear. Animals can create positive change in the realms of social skills, emotional well being, cognition, and independence. By providing these opportunities to children, teachers are handing their students a key. It is amazing to watch the ways animals can open doors for children. After having witnessed the changes personally in many different ways over the years, I feel it is my obligation as an educator to provide these experiences to my students. Not bringing animals into their immediate world could be compared to cutting the music program in the school. Hence, the pressing question is for today is why is the number of teachers who keep animals in their classes so low? In my present teaching situation, there are over 80 teachers and only 2 of us have animals in our classrooms. Could this be considered negligent? I do not believe it is due to negligence, but more that it is due to ignorance. This research needs to be shared and reflected upon. The implications are too large and too important. The children may not even be aware of what they are missing, or even of their own potential.
Ainsworth, M., Blehar, M., Waters, E., Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: a psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
A.P.E. News (1995).Animals in the classroom. API: A.P.E. News, 9 (2), 1-2.
Bowlby, J. (1958). The nature of the child's tie to his mother. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39, 350-373.
Huddart, S. (1995). Humane education and the biophilia factor - new perspectives on animals in classrooms. BC SPCA Education Division, pp.1-3.
Kellert, S., Wilson, E. (Eds.). (1993). The Biophilia Hypothesis. Washington, DC: Shearwater Books.
Kidd, A., Kidd, R. (1995). Children's drawings and attachment to pets. Psychological Reports, 77, 235-241.
The Mining Company Guide to Elementary School Educators (1997). Elementary school educators - critters in the classroom.
Naherniak, C.(1995). Classroom animals. BC SPCA Education Division - Profound Encounters, pp.1-3.
Robin, M., ten Bensel, R. (1985). Pets and the socialization of children. Marriage and Family Review, 8, 63-78.
Sable, P. (1995). Pets, attachment, and well-being across the life cycle. Social Work, 40, 334-341.
Shepard, P. (1982). Nature and Madness. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.
Triebenbacher, S. (1998). Pets as transitional objects: Their role in children's emotional development.Psychological Reports, 82, 191-200.
Phone conversations with The Delta Society and Fidelco.
Internet address utilized for research:
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