Since preschool-aged children learn by doing, having a classroom pet that the students can interact with each day is not only fun, but an educational experience.
When students are allowed the opportunity to help care for a classroom pet, they learn responsibility and how important it is to care properly for a living thing. They get first-hand experience with the animal, which has more of a lasting impression than reading about animals in books (as important as reading is). The children learn caring and sharing, as well as how to be gentle as they take turns holding the animal. This can also be a fantastic way of pulling shy children out of their shells.
Not all animals are suited for the classroom. Preschool teachers should be sure to select a pet that is relatively low maintenance, doesn’t mind noise, and is docile and likes to be handled. Nocturnal animals should be avoided since they will be sleeping during class time and won’t give the children much of an opportunity to interact with them.
A couple of weeks ago, we introduced two gerbils, Jo-jo and Alexi, to our students. Gerbils make excellent classroom pets because they are docile and easy-going, very active, and don’t mind being handled and passed around. Jo-jo and Alexi are no exception. They love being a part of the Square Roots Preschool family, and the students love them.