Classroom Animals and Pets - News and Views!


news flash!

Did you know that "Classroom Animals and Pets" website is now listed in the newest edition of two books? "The Internet Kids & Family Yellow Pages 2001" edition (Jean Armour Polly) and also "The Busy Educator's Guide to the World Wide Web" (Marjan Glavac).

and Views...

Note: Please also see the members' section on Research Articles and Papers.


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Well, here is what's new with Nora (me!)...

January 2002
HAPPY NEW YEAR, once again! All my previous "busy jobs" are still there and some new ones have sprung up as well! So... with that many "pots on the boil", maybe I should just buy a bigger stove!
Take care... and try to be sensible about those commitments this year!

July 2001
Ahhh... the classroom is all packed up for the summer vacation once again. It was certainly one of those "hectic years". The school reconstruction seemed to go on forever and many of my lesson files and activity boxes never did surface at the critical moments. So be it! It's time to recharge the batteries, and leave the battle of the overstuffed teacher cupboard until the end of August. The hamster and the hermit crabs were sent home with reputable families and the rest of the "gang" came home to vacation in my "bug room". AS always, after lugging all my "living things" home, I wonder how only a half dozen or so plants can take up SO much room on the window ledges? This summer I am trying to stay very focused in two areas... working on that dratted master's thesis (no, it's still not done) and trying to exercise off three years of sitting-at-the-computer weight gain! Unfortunately, a host of enticing distractions plague my endeavours... shall I start a classroom webpage next year? how can I develop a "Nature's Classroom" theme in the marvelous park outside my new classroom? can I spare the time to upload photos of my first tomato onto the Tomatosphere project webpages? what's the fastest way to finish off the school website activities as well as the traveling stuffie website activities... AND... will I ever get time to get caught up on THIS website and finally start to add in some new material???
Marvelous mind-candy for the morning dog walk and exercise jog, don't you think!!! Ah, summer!!!

January 2001
Happy New Year, everyone! I can't believe that Term 1 is over, the Christmas frantics are over, the Christmas HOLIDAYS are over, and, my goodness, I have to go back to school tomorrow morning! AAAAGGGGHHH! I had planned to write up a nice little "list" of all the things that have happened on this website last year... but right now I have to clean out my school bag and figure out what I'm doing (and wearing) (and eating for lunch) for Monday! ...and that's only a few hours away!!!
I hope that you all had good holiday breaks. I feel like it has been a long time since I have seen "little ones", so despite the fact that I had to go into the school three times on my vacation, I still think that I have had a good "getaway". As we all know, "all too well", by Tuesday afternoon we won't even remember what being on holiday felt like!
Take care, and here's hoping we are all looking forward to a splendid new year!
Hmmm... now what new things can we get into THIS year!!! :-)

November 2000
The first two months back at school are always crazy, but this year has had the added stress of our school undergoing reconstruction. Funnily enough, my new classroom (which used to be the old staffroom) was not ready for entry untill the second day of school! Anyone who knows me, knows that I take at least a week to set up my classroom even when I haven't moved anywhere! Sigh! Such is the politics of school boards, construction site managers, and the like! Anyway, it is now November 12 and I have been promised that the coat hooks for the children will be there when I go in on Monday. Hmmm... I'll believe it when I see it! I won't even THINK about the theme boxes I have stashed in a supply room, waiting for the shelves that are supposed to go above these "coat hooks"! So... if I continue to be a bit behind in everything - at least I have a good excuse ;-)
Oh... and to while away the time while I have been avoiding my thesis (another sigh!) I have finished (not really!) the first website for my own school. If you get a chance, you're welcome to visit the Nestor School Website:

July 2000
What an exciting month... the Chatboard at Teachers.Net has now been set up for us, and for other teachers who have an interest in animals. You'll find it at Chatboards: Projects-Classroom Pets. It was also exciting trying out our first Chat Live session. Not too many guests... but that kept the pressure down! Other exciting news... we have been contacted by TWO authors who are going to put our website URL in the latest edition of their books. Marjan Glavac of the Busy Educator and Jean Armour Polly of the Internet Kids and Family Yellow Pages have contacted me with the good news. Now that's exciting!!!
...and in very small letters and a very small voice... no, I haven't nearly finished my masters' thesis work yet. Sigh! I am really behind!
...but in much bigger letters and a big voice... I have done a huge reconstruction of my website on my "Traveling Stuffie" project (which sends stuffed Canadian animals off to foreign shores!). I'm very pleased with it indeed!

February 2000
The Premiere Issue of the "CA&P Newsletter" has been sent out to the "membership"!!! The goal for 2000 is to work on keeping our network of teachers better informed! This newsletter will (hopefully!) arrive every other month… I think that will be sufficient without being overwhelming for any of us! I hope you will enjoy receiving the updates. I would appreciate your suggestions and would also be delighted if anyone has a “contribution” for the newsletter! If you have a new question or animal project to share, this might be just the place to let the “membership” know!

January 2000
I made it!!! Happy New Year 2000 to you all! I am still going through some "withdrawal" at giving over "my class" to someone else... but... my time is so filled up with thesis proposals and preparations that I don't think it will last long! (I'm also sneaking in a little time to do some work on this CA&P website of course!!!) I have been working on an online component to my thesis as well. Sorry... the actual study is for B.C. teachers only! I'm looking at the "Integration of Computer Technology in Curriculum at the Grade 4 and 5 Levels". (whew! that's a long title and an even longer topic!). However, if you are interested to take a peek at what I'm contemplating....

December 1999
The Christmas concert season is upon us. I have put my Y2K bug Hallowe'en costume away for some future nonsense and am trying to get in the spirit "without" snow. I am also doing a major packup and preparation for a new teacher to take over my classroom... I was lucky enough to be awarded an educational leave to work on my masters thesis! The past two years of full-time school and evening university classes are coming to an end... but will I survive to January???

September 25, 1999
School is in full swing now. I can tell because our computer lab was totally kaput for the last week. I really was hoping we'd start off on the right foot for once! Sigh! Well, the trouble has been traced to a faulty hub and we are seemingly back on track. I've moved our little froggies into a bigger tank as I've heard that a couple of anoles can live peacefully with them. We still have our walking sticks, millipedes, leopard gecko. This year I have goldfish! I haven't had them in ages! I'm still waiting for my "present" of a new little hamster... it seems Spike (from last year) broke out from his fancy double decker house during his summer holidays away from school. I'm already in the midst of starting the year with a science unit on the Painted Lady butterfly. I do hope that our usual "Indian summer" weather will hang around until "butterfly freedom day". My last "playtime on the computer" (until the next holiday!) involved setting up a website for my stuffed animals that travel to Australia. It's a wonderful experience and the children get to learn something about some of the special animals in both Canada and Australia. Give it a peek...

August 24, 1999
Yipes! Here I am back preparing my classroom for the new year and I haven't had hardly a speck of time to work on the website! I can't believe that my university studies are taking THAT much time! Actually, as you might have expected, several (a dozen?) "must do" projects have also come up in the last few months and I have had to put some of my plans on hold for now. I did manage to squeeze in a Corel workshop and actually learn how to work with photos and a scanner... so I do finally some photos on the website. That pleases me no end! I hope some of you are having more success squishing in the things you really want to do! On the other hand... maybe I simply have too many things that I "really want to do" !!!

Feb 14, 1999
Happy Valentine's Day to you! Yes, I'm still alive, but what a crazy year it is (already!). We had a class birthday Feb. 11, a Valentine's party Feb. 12, it's our 100 day on Mon. Feb. 15 (and of course I have a day long set of activities which I somehow can't seem to give up), and it's Chinese New Year on Feb. 16 (and I'm the sponsor teacher for the Dragon parade around the school). Sheesh! There's a little hiatus coming after that, so you just KNOW it must be time for Report Cards soon! I'm still plugging away at my University courses and this past month I've been busy at an additional course learning MSAccess. I'm still hoping to get my database of registered teachers in order before I start "publicizing" this website. I'm certain that you "early bird members" will have lots of company once I "really" get going! (It was actually quite nice to go sit down in a computer class for 3 hours a week and forget the "real world"!)

December 10, 1998
Christmas is a-coming! I hope you are all getting those concerts and special projects wrapped up. I'm really looking forward to a break... and maybe even some time to work on this website!

November 1998
How is it possible that I seem to have "negative time" left at the end of the day!
Strange but true... Netscape versus Internet Explorer note...
This web site opens MUCH faster with Netscape than with Internet Explorer!

August 1998
I somehow seem to have started back to University, on my first step towards a master's degree! The idea was to start in the summer holidays so that I could get a little practice in at being a student again before those exhausting days of September. I'm certainly glad that I did... because everything took me forever to finish! It's certainly been a long time since I had to read adult textbooks and study for quizzes! Hopefully I've got my "feet wet" now, so that those evening classes after a full day at school won't seem quite so long. Actually, the worst part is trying to get out of the classroom by 3:45pm. I'm a terrible one for staying late just to finish off "this and that" !

Of course this meant that I have had virtually no time to spend on this Web site. Sorry about that! So far I have started to learn a lot about the use of computers in education, however. Somewhere down the line I definitely plan to add a section or sections on how this fits into classroom animal projects. My original thesis focus was to be the use of computer technology in animal based classroom projects however, I'm finding that there are a lot of teachers out there who need a helping hand in simply using computers at all! There may just be a big "bend" in my studies to incorporate this area. Also new for me, this coming school year, will be a 4 block release time to work on basic maintenance in our school's computer room. Like most other schools, we are being mandated to integrate technology into the curriculum, but there are no extra funds for any specialty teachers. How did I get this "mini-position"?... no one else put their hand up! <vbg> Anyway, I hope that my new studies, my computer room duties, and my Classroom Animals Web site will all complement one another. Time will tell!
:-) Nora

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Helpful (new) Ideas


Chat Live: Our first Chat Live session was held Sat. July 15. A very small, but enthusiastic, group of pet keeping teachers responded. I persoanlly got the chance to try out being a bit of a moderator without too much pressure! Again, thanks to Teachers.Net for this opportunity! BTW, it would appear that unscheduled informal chat sessions are available at any time! As a matter of fact, I went into a chat room with my Mom to show her how it works! (I talked her through the steps over the telephone while we each clicked away on our computers!) So... if you'd like to get together "Live" with me or with some of the other teachers, just send out a few emails with a set date and time, and we can try to "meet". I'm not sure when we will set up the next "formal session", but I am sure that I would like to!

Chatboard: Thanks to Teachers.Net we now have a discussion area! I felt that joining up with this huge membership of teachers around the world would be more advantageous than setting up a small discussion board amongst ourselves. We will be in contact with many other teachers who have pet keeping concerns and so draw from a larger resource pool. Additionally, we might be able to help out other teachers, which is the undelying goal for this website anyway! Questions for our own group, however, can still be posted in our regular CA&P Newsletter.

Newsletter for CA&P: As of January 2000, CA&P now has a short newsletter for the Teacher/Educator members which is sent 6 times a year. We include a welcome to new members, questions from the membership, links to recent websites we have discovered, and so on.

We definitely need more people emailing me with ideas for this section!!! N.B.

Fish & co.

Thanks to member # 70 USA Joi Jorgensen for this information!
(Eventually I will get the time to add this information to a new webpage on toads!)
We keep one toad at a time in a 10 gallon aquarium with a lid. They like to burrow some so we put about an inch of sand at the bottom. We put in a couple of logs, propped up so he can hid. He loves to sit in his water dish so we put water in a large lid. Don't bother trying to bury it. He will climb right in. He eats crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms and
pinkies. (At times we will raise mice-he will not eat the once that are frozen from the pet store. It has to be live.) He is fun to
watch-especially when the food is first placed in his habitat. He will see it and aim his mouth towards it and "boom" it is slurped! As he is swallowing it his eyes go down in is head. We would suggest a large toad, as it is hard to find small crickets to feed a small toad. We never knew that keep a toad would be so much fun. He never smells. Once a week we scoop through his sand with a rack of some sort to get out his "large" droppings. The first time we found one we couldn't figure out what it was!!! In the winter we use more mealworms. If we can find crickets, we use them first. The kids catch them outside on the playground. They can also be purchased. We will let him go when school is out in May. One thing great about toads is that (at least around here) they are easily found. This is all off the top of my head. Let me know if there is anything else I can add. Joi Jorgensen

Insects & co.
Mammals: bottom litter- Jennifer Rocca (Guestbook- October/98 entry) reminds us that cedar chips are not safe for small mammals. She also mentions pine chips. I knew about the cedar, but had thought pine chips were fine. Does anyone have any additional info. on this aspect of care?
“Green” Thoughts


New Links

(These have not been added to the main pages yet.)

Some butterfly websites:

Some frog websites:

an odd little site (doesn't seem to be connected anywhere!) on Ants

ViewPoints Award: World Web Cam Live
an interesting site on Animal Webcams... Nominations for a 1998 award

NSRC: STC Curriculum Materials: Organisms
A lesson unit on combining plant and animals in the class for a more enriched learning experience.

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Choosing A Classroom Pet - A Problem-Solving Experience
by S. Zuckerman (member # 6, Canada)
contributed August 1999


Every year I have my students choose a new classroom pet. The actual choosing of an appropriate pet is a exceedingly rich, valuable problem-solving experience. I have also found that when students choose their own pet they readily take complete responsibility for it, which means they do ALL the work. In British Columbia this fits with our Personal Planning Curriculum, learning to make responsible choices and taking care of living things. I have used this process with Grades 3 - 6, and we have had such diverse choices as hamsters, an iguana, a guinea pig, a rabbit, a snake and a mouse. Generally I wait until after Christmas to begin the choosing process, and we get the pet sometime in February, March or April. I want the students to be to a place where I can trust they will take full responsibility, and continue to take it for the remainder of the year. I'm a little afraid that if we got it too early in the year the novelty might wear off.


It is very important that the students don't see this as a vote for the pet they want. Choosing a pet is a very complex decision and I allow a few weeks for it. Learning the creative problem-solving process is an important part of this, as it is a strategy that can be applied to many problems.

The basic steps in the creative problem-solving process:
1. Defining the problem
2. Brainstorming possible solutions
3. Defining criteria for good solutions
4. Evaluating possibilities according to criteria
5. Making the final decision
6. Action plan and action

I have these steps written on a chart which is displayed, so the whole process can be seen at a glance. We then go through a step at a time, recording everything on chart paper so we can keep referring to it.

One more point: There is a pattern within these steps, of thinking expansively and then critically narrowing our scope. This expanding and narrowing, expanding and narrowing, needs to be made explicit for the students.


After some "expansive" discussion, (and I must admit I lead the class around to this) the actual problem "narrowly" defined is: Choosing an appropriate classroom pet. That word "appropriate" is crucial. Students can get a little high over choosing a pet, and "appropriate" helps keep them grounded.


One of the key rules for brainstorming is to accept all possibilities. I learned the hard way, however, not to accept all suggestions. Once was enough to waste time with impossibilities like elephant, bear, and moose! That word "possible" is important! On the other hand, it's good to not be too judgmental when "expansively" brainstorming as sometimes ridiculous ideas can spark excellent ideas. We make a list that pretty much fills the chart paper.

Then we have our initial "narrowing" stage. We go through this huge list and cross off animals that clearly would be inappropriate to keep in our classroom. I have students suggest these, give reasons why, and ask for a show of hands to see who agrees. If most do, it's crossed off. This means we don't waste any more time considering such things as horses, dogs, or pot-bellied pigs, which might make fine pets, but not in our classroom.


Now we get very realistic. I make sure the students clearly understand that I will not be taking any responsibility for this pet. They will be raising the money for it, getting it, feeding it, cleaning it, taking it home on weekends if that's needed, etc. etc. This is important to repeat over and over, for some kids have a difficult time getting beyond thinking of this pet as someone else's responsibility. It can be hard for them to get beyond the glamour of a pet and to consider cleaning the cage, lifting it, etc.

We begin with an expansive list of considerations such as: cost, availability, housing, feeding, cleaning, handling, allergies, phobias, smell, escaping, taming, etc. etc. Much discussion of these considerations are needed, with plenty of examples. For instance, a pet that can run very fast if it escapes might get lost pretty quickly. Some pets need live food and how will that be obtained? Some pets can't be handled, and do they want one they can hold and cuddle or just look at? Some pets are very noisy and could be disturbing when we need quiet. Some pets are nocturnal, and do we want one that sleeps all day? I have an aquarium, a small cage and a large cage, but if we need housing other than that, how will we get it?

Next we narrow and possibly combine these considerations into a reasonable number of criteria, perhaps 6 - 8. Generally we do this by consensus, with perhaps a bit of voting needed. It's important not to have too many criteria or the next stage becomes unmanageable. (And it's always possible, after the evaluation stage has narrowed the field to 2 or 3 choices, to add in more criteria if necessary!) The core list of criteria usually includes cost, feeding, housing, cleaning and handling.

Note: A criteria that I wanted added this past year was "exotic." I explained to the students how this was an ethical issue, and some people felt it wasn't right to try and keep pets in places very different from their natural climate. For instance, we live in a cool, moist climate, and animals that need hot or dry conditions are under a lot of stress here, and it's much harder to keep them alive. We came to a class decision to not have a pet considered exotic in our climate.


First, we do a rough, intuitive evaluation. Just bearing our criteria in mind, we choose approximately 8-10 pets to evaluate more carefully. We do this by students putting up their hands if they think a pet should be in the top list. Without this initial, rough evalution the next stage is unmanageable.

These top 8-10 pets are then evaluated according to the 6-8 criteria we chose. We make a chart, with criteria across the top and pets down the side. We evaluate one pet at a time, rating it on each criteria, on a scale of 0-2. If it meets the criteria "very well" it gets a 2, "somewhat" gets a 1, and "not at all" gets a 0.

This evaluation is a complex, negotiated process. Much knowledge about the pets must be brought to it. You may find you cannot rate some pets on some criteria without more information. For instance: How much does a chinchilla cost? What do hedgehogs eat? Can you handle a gecko? You will find some students have experience with certain pets and they will be very helpful in this process. Others may offer information that is unreliable.

Your evaluation chart may take a while to complete, while all the information necessary is gathered. Integral to this stage, then, is some research. Some students may volunteer to ask people they know who have these particular pets, or to go to a pet store and ask. I would suggest that you also visit a pet store and find out about some of the pets on the top 8-10 list. You may find, for instance, that yes, you can get geckos quite cheaply, but those are the kind that will bite a kid's finger off! The more mild-mannered geckos are expensive.


Finally your evaluation chart is complete! Now you can total the ratings for each pet and find out which ones rate the highest. IMPORTANT: The top rating is not automatically "the winner". This evaluation chart has been a valuable, logical tool, and it gives us a good indication of an appropriate classroom pet, but we are not bound by it! Sometimes logic and how we "feel" don't jive. The choice of a pet is something about which you must feel good. Sometimes the "winner" on the chart brings groans from a lot of the kids. Pretty clear indication some further deciding is needed!

So what do we do now? Maybe there is one clear "winner" that most of the kids seem very happy about. Then you've just chosen your pet! Usually, however, there are 2 or 3 all within a few points of each other. Some further deciding between them is needed. How might you do this?

1) You might evaluate these top 2 or 3 pets by some other important criteria not used in the main chart. For instance, one consideration that sometimes surfaces during the rating process is how "interesting" a pet would be. This was the deciding factor for us in choosing a mouse over a hamster, with students thinking it would be more interesting because many of them already had hamsters.

2) You might need to look into the actual purchasing of these 2 or 3 pets. Sometimes one isn't readily available right now. For instance, if you find only large rabbits are available at your local pet stores, not dwarfs or dwarf crosses, you would probably want to change your mind about the rabbit. (A large rabbit can hardly be held by a child and makes more poop than most kids care to deal with!)

3) You might put it to a class vote between these top 2 or 3. This can be risky, however, if the vote is close. You don't want to have nearly half your class alienated from the chosen pet or they may resent having to feed and clean it. One year we voted between our top 2, a guinea pig and a snake. There was a clear boy/girl split, but we had quite a few more boys than girls, and so the snake clearly won. I felt very uncomfortable with this situation. This was a year I thought we better have 2 class pets! However, although many of the girls were abhorred at the thought of a snake in the class at first, by the end of the year every single one had held it! (But me, I must admit. I'd only touch it.) (Another important point: As the teacher, you don't need to feel totally comfortable with the chosen pet. It is the kids' responsibility! Which doesn't mean, however, that I wouldn't do everything within my power to make darn sure a tarantula never got one of its hairy legs even close to our top 10 list!)


Now the fun begins! It's time to come off the paper and make it real. Well, there's still a little more chart-paper stuff. First, we make a list of all that needs to be done in order to get our pet.

Here are some things that will probably be on your list:

1) Money. At least some money will likely be needed, even if many things can be donated. The best (easiest) way I have found to raise money is having the kids bring in cans and bottles to be recycled. One job I take on is driving these to the recycling depot. (Usually I lay out the necessary funds to purchase the pet, and then get paid back. At this point we're too anxious to get the pet to wait to raise the money.)

2) Housing. Rather than buying a cage, someone might donate one. I have collected some over the years, which I donate, but take back at the end of the year. (Yes, we'll get to what to do with this pet at the end of the year further down the page.) Included in housing might be wood chips, food dish, water bottle, hide box etc.

3) Food. Some food will probably need to be bought, using the money raised. Other food, like vegetables and fruits can be brought by students from home. (See Pet Care below.) Some students might donate food left over from a previous pet.

4) Getting the pet. There are a number of ways to find your actual pet, through the want- ads, donations, pet store, etc. Sometimes by this stage a parent might come forth with a lead on where to get the pet you want, and then they and their child can take on the responsibility. If it takes going to the pet store, what I generally do is take 2 students with me, whose names have been drawn from a hat, and they do the actual choosing. (It's also a good idea to get a booklet or pamphlet about caring for this kind of pet.)

5) Pet Care. My students always sit in groups and have daily group jobs which are changed each week. One of these jobs becomes Pet Care. One group is thus responsible for our pet for the week. The jobs include feeding it, bringing fruits and veggies from home if necessary, cleaning the cage, exercising it if necessary, etc. etc.

6) Taming. One of the differences about having a pet in a classroom vs. at home is that a classroom is noisier and the pet must become used to many people. This can be stressful on some animals, and we want to keep stress on our pet to a minimum. This is the argument I use to help students understand the need for limiting the pet's handling at first. If the pet needs to be tamed, we choose 2 or 3 students who are experienced with this kind of pet or otherwise very capable. As "tamers" they are the only ones allowed to handle the pet at first. They give the class progress reports, and more tamers are added as soon as possible. The goal is to have everyone able to handle the pet as soon as possible.

7) Holding schedule. Once the pet is deemed tamed, limiting the handling of it is still usually necessary, to keep the animal from being overwhelmed. We generally come up with something like this: only one or two groups can hold it each day, at recess, lunch, spare time, etc. After school, however, anyone who wishes may stay to hold it. The reason I like this condition after school is that some students will form a closer bond with the pet and need more time with it. If too many want to hold it at a time, they can problem-solve this, for example, having a 1 minute limit, making a list of names, etc.

8) Weekends. Some pets can stay in the classroom alone all weekend (e.g. snakes, lizards) but I think the loneliness would be cruel for a mammal. Taking the pet home for the weekend is a wonderful learning and responsibility-building experience for the children. I simply have students bring in notes of permission, and send the note back with the dates they will take it home written on it. I put the student's name on the calendar for the weekend they take the pet. The pet goes home in the cage, with a bag of food and other supplies, and, if possible, a book or pamphlet on how to care for this kind of pet.

9) Emergent needs. When we first get our pet we usually have to discuss something about it every day. As much as possible I have the students problem-solve and come to a decision themselves. As time goes on other problems and needs emerge, and we usually discuss these in our weekly class meetings. Taking care of living creatures is a big responsibility!

10) End of the year. So what do we do with our pet at the end of the year? I approach this as another problem to solve. There are many possibities, and as a class we suggest some of them. I have found, however, that the solution invariably is: someone in the class gets to keep it. (No, I don't want to keep it for next year. My classes always chooses their own new pet!) Sometimes not all the equipment goes with the pet, however. If it's my cage, I keep it. This means the student's family needs to provide another cage. Students who get permission from their parents bring in a note. Usually, very few actually get this permission. To decide amongst those who do get permission you might have a draw or a secret vote. I let the class vote on how to decide. If nobody gets permission to keep the pet, you can move to the other alternatives, e.g. putting it in the want-ads or advertising it throughout the school. I've never had to do this!


All this sounds like a fairly time consuming and complex process. It is! We're talking about caring for another life! So why do I it? The rewards are so rich that I can't imagine not doing it any more. The students learn a tremendous amount from taking on this very real responsibility and all the attendant problem-solving. Just when late winter doldrums are upon us, we have a brand new exciting focus. Class ownership of a pet helps bring us together as a cohesive group. We become nurturers of this precious life.

ADDENDUM: SOME PETS FOR WHICH STUDENTS CAN TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY (from my experience) I'll simply list the pets we've had and the pros and cons of them:

1) Hamster. Easy to care for and very easy to handle. Small cage easy to take home for weekends. Sleeps for most of the day, but doesn't mind being woken up to be played with. Can escape and run away and can be hard to catch. Because many students are familiar with hamsters they know how to care for them, but this also means they tend to become bored with them.

2) Iguana. Needs either live insects or prepared food containing insects, which are both a hassle to provide. Don't like being handled much, and their toes are easily broken off if snagged on clothing. Can carry salmonella, thus hands always need to be washed with soap after handling. If it escapes it runs fast! Needs a hot rock and a heat lamp. Hard to care for. I wouldn't have one again, except perhaps with older kids (Gr. 6+).
(*NOTE FROM NORA: As Susan mentioned earlier, she now has a criteria which disallows "exotic pets" from the list of possible choices. Additionally, an iguana grows to 5 feet or more and requires very special care in order to stay healthy. This is not a pet which ANY person should undertake unless he/she is willing to assume the responsibility for providing a long-term rich environment geared to the needs of a very large animal. In short, in my opinion Iguanas are not suitable pets for any classroom and neither are they suitable for 99% of pet owners.)

3) Snake. Ours was a nice little garter snake. Needs live food, which can be a hassle to provide. Smells! Aquarium difficult to clean; must be scrubbed out. Can carry salmonella, so hands needs to be washed with soap after handling. Needs a very tight-fitting lid. Needs a hot rock or heat lamp. Takes skill to learn to hold. If it escapes, it can move fast and is hard to catch. Can stay in the classroom over the weekend. Very interesting, for instance watching the skin being shed. I'd discourage the kids from having one again as it was difficult for them to care for, but it was so interesting that if they really really wanted one I'd probably go for it.

4) Guinea pig. Easy to care for, cage needing about twice-a-week cleaning. Cage needs to be quite big but can still easily be taken home for the weekend. Not difficult to hold, although it takes some skill as their legs need good support at all times. Very gentle and loving. A really good class pet.

5) Rabbit. A dwarf or dwarf cross is a good size and can fit in a guinea pig cage, which is a good size to take home on weekends. Easy to feed. Needs dedicated care. Cage needs daily cleaning as they poop a lot, but it's an easy task. Needs daily exercise outside of cage. Easy to hold and very friendly and loving, bonding exceptionally well with kids (which makes up for all the work!). An excellent pet for responsible kids. (See the section on Rabbits on this web-site, to which I contributed.)

6) Mouse. Even a "fancy" mouse doesn't cost much. Needs a small aquarium or very closely-wired cage. Very easy to care for. Eats little and poops little, thus cage needs only weekly cleaning. Exceptionally easy to tame and handle. If escapes, quite easy to catch (usually seeks your hand!). Very interesting and very smart. An excellent, easy-to-care for pet. The all-round best classroom pet we've had. (I said that about the rabbit, but that was before I had a mouse!)

7) Who knows?? Part of the excitement for me each year is wondering what pet this class will come up with. It's always an adventure!

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This page was revised February 2002.