Friday, August 19, 2011

Class Pets... What do you think?

For some reason, the notion of having a hamster in my classroom crept into my consciousness the other day and I can't shake it!

Tonight my husband and I went to the pet store purely for harnesses for our dogs... but I peeked at the hamsters and I am in love! The Teddy Bear Hamsters are my favorite! My husband is skeptical though and asked me to "sleep on it". I think that is husband speak for "You're out of your mind".

So... I'd love to hear what you all think. Do you have a class pet? Do you send it home with students over breaks? What about the summer? How often do you clean the cage? Do you spend oodles of money to upkeep your pet? How can I make it meaningful in my classroom?

When I was in third grade my teacher, Mrs. Chiaccho, wanted a dog and her husband said no. So she had us write him letters to try and convince him to let her get the dog (talk about an authentic way to practice persuasive writing... with a real audience and everything... HA!). And she came back the next day and said we made him feel terrible and he actually cried! But she was getting the dog! So... maybe letters to Mr. Bainbridge are in order when I head back to school next month? ;)

(Just a friendly reminder to head over to my blog FB page to snag a back-to-school freebie!... the FB button is on the right side of my blog!)


  1. I have two box turtles (I inherited them from a former student who couldn't keep them anymore.) The turtles are a little easier than a warm-blooded animal I think! lol. They can stay in the classroom over weekends but I do take them home over the summer and long breaks. My daily "Teacher Assistant" is in charge of making sure Jack and Diane (they are John Mellencamp fans) have water and I also put them in charge of feeding them their worms (ewwwww they love it and I am so thankful I don't have to touch them!) I let the turtles out to crawl around the room sometimes but only when it is quiet working time (as long as they aren't too distracted which does happen in the beginning of the year). My teammie had guinea pigs this past year and I think she searched online and found a way to incorportate them into reading fluency practice.Good luck!

  2. Oh I forgot - since we learn about the animal groups I can refer to my reptiles a lot! :)

  3. Our district actually has a policy about no pets in the classroom due to allergies. :-( I think the only thin we can have is fish and possibly hermit crabs.

  4. I've wanted a class pet too but my co-workers say I have too many pets as it is (3 dogs and 2 cats at home). I even considered buying a hamster (with everything) at a garage sale this summer!! I grew up with hamsters so I kind of want to get another one (maybe to relive my childhood)
    I think if I was to get a class pet I would be the one who took it home for breaks. It would be a good helper job to make sure the pet had food and such. I'm sure you'd need to clean the cage every week or so, as they can get pretty smelly. A hamster could run around in the ball in the classroom, during quiet working time. The downside to hamsters, they are nocturnal so you may have to try to switch it's schedule if you want it awake during the day. You may be able to put out a "wish" list for the classroom and add some hamster treats on it. I don't think they are terribly expensive for upkeep but depends on what you use for bedding and such. Just some thoughts about pets when I consider one. I still want one but I look at my room and I'm not too sure where I'd put one (just yet...)
    Good luck!

  5. PetSmart (I think) had a classroom pet box with coupons for free items-
    plus books and such :)


  6. I have just started the class pet adventure this year. I started with fish. I've only had one commit suicide so far. He literally jumped out of the tank =(. I teach reallly really low kids. They LOVE the responsibility. And i'm all the way in fifth grade. So I say go for it! You might could smart small if your not really sure. However, I do have to go up on the weekends to make sure they get fed.....

  7. I bet it was that Target commercial! That Lewis and Clark is precious! Anyway, I have lots of pets. It will really help with teaching responsibility. Mammals are the most difficult though. I had a hamster and they do require lots of attention, care, and cleaning. Retiles are super uber easy if you like them. I had anoles and did not! Right now we have my mini lop rabbit, a tarantula, lots of fish (also lots of upkeep), hissing cockroaches, and I just gave our hedgehog to my son's teacher who was looking for a pet.
    If you end up getting one, Pet Smart will send you a free Small Pets in the Classroom kit with great lessons!

  8. Oh my goodness! I have been the same way with a hamster! My first read aloud is "The World According to Humphrey". I'm not sure if you've read it or not, but it's the story told by Humphrey, a classroom hamster! It is so cute and has made me almost want a real hamster, but I just don't know! I know I don't want to take one home, that's for sure. So that's why I don't have one!

  9. I just applied for a grant for a classroom pet and it was accepted! In the middle of September, I will receive my packet and be able to go buy my pet. Since this is my first pet experience in the classroom I'm sticking with hermit crabs. I'm slightly nervous about the extra work it will add (since teachers are so very busy as it is), but I think it will be worth it! I had found some really good videos on You Tube by a teacher who has them in her room... she made it seem very easy. My grant is from

    Tales of a Teacherista

  10. We are only allowed to have pets that fit our curriculum and no mammals due to allergies. Basically that left frogs. I had two frogs that expired when we had all that freak snow a few winters ago and we were out of school unexpectedly for 2 weeks.

  11. I recently (Tuesday started Wednesday) purchased three hermit crabs for my kindergarten classroom. I'd never had a classroom pet before (this is my 13th yr of teaching) but I have a special needs student in my room this year and she had requested a teacher w/a classroom pet. She got me and was disappointed. ;( Anywho, I know hermit bCrabs are not nearly as exciting as a furry lil guy (or gal) but I was sure I could do the whole rodent looking thing. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my puppies!!! Any who, she was very surprised and the kids are loving them! So far they have not been very time consuming.
    How about them apples?

  12. You guys are really making me want a hamster!!!! BUT... I do not love the idea of going in on snow days and things like that, as I live about 20 minutes away from school as it is and as anyone who lives in Michigan knows the weather is totally unpredictable!

    However... for normal weekends, do you just stock your critter up with food on Friday afternoon? I go in to school often on Sunday, but on the weekends I didn't... would he (or she!) be OK until Monday?


  13. I have a couple different class pets in my classroom. We have a hamster and two African Dwarf Frogs (which are SUPER EASY to take care of). I recently did a post on my blog about class pets which includes some great resources to teach your students about class pets as well as a grant program to help you with the cost of purchasing a class pet. Stop over and check it out, and become a follower as well if you'd like! :) Hope it helps!

    First Grade Brigade: Pets in The Classroom

  14. I am not the person to talk you INTO getting a hamster, so if that's what you're looking for, stop reading now! Hamsters cages are smelly, unless you clean them out really frequently. They often escape, and you have to find them and trap them again! They have relatively short life spans, so it's not just possible, but likely, that you'll go to your classroom one morning and s/he will be dead. And then there's the issue of what to do with it on school breaks. Will you take it home, or ask for a student volunteer? How will you handle it if the student who brings it home loses it or it dies at the student's house? Good luck with your decision. *Disclaimer: I'm not a huge fan of pets in the first place, so my opinion is biased.*

  15. I use to buy a beta fish for my classroom, very easy to care for. But they stopped heating our school during the weekends so it froze one year. No more fish for me. Now at the end of the year I have pet days where the kids can bring their pets for show and tell.

  16. I love animals & most kids do too... however, I want to warn you of a few things. Many districts have policies against having mammals in the classroom. I have never had a parent complain... but a few of my colleagues have. You would need to clean the cage daily to ensure there is not an odor in your classroom. We have had parents claim that their child is allergic to the hair so they have had to be removed (pet or kid). Hamsters are often inbred so they can be high strung & often bite. Having a pet in the classroom is fantastic for those kids that don't have one at home! I would encourage you to get one from another animal group... turtle, frog, hermit crab, snake are all classroom pets my students have adored! Another option would be to get a school pet that could be housed outside for all to enjoy. (Our school is on our third rabbit... The first two lived over 10 years and were adored by our students! I hope you find a solution that works for you. :-D

  17. I LOVE pets in the classroom! Seriously, I think they add so much joy and vibrancy and motivation to a classroom. When I had my guinea pig in my class I got some great writing out of my kinders - one little boy wrote about going to the movies with her, it was so funny! Unfortunately my new principal is not a fan of animals and said no to anything but fish (I am assuming my hermit crabs are okay since they are "sea life".)

    Cages can get smelly, but only if you use inferior litter or fail to clean regularily. Most people use wood shavings which don't absorb the smell and actually smell pretty funky themselves. Make sure you get Carefresh bedding - I think it is worth the small price difference. This site gives info on the different beddings (it's appropriate for hamsters as well as guinea pigs).
    Weekends can be dealt with by stocking them up on water and food. anything longer than a weekend and I would bring them home with you. We did have a time when we had a huge storm and school was closed for almost 2 weeks. At that point I couldn't risk bringing the guinea pig out in the freezing cold, but I was afraid for her in the cold school as well. I ended up putting extra bedding in her cage for her to burrow into, two water bottle and tons of food. Then I put blankets on top and around the cage. I checked on her every 2-3 days and she did fine.

    If the hamster did die, which is not as common as people think since hamsters can live to be 3 years (dwarf species have shorter life spans though), then you could use it as a learning experience. My absolute favorite book is "Houdini Was" which was written by a 2nd grade class when their hamster died.

    Anyways, I think I've advocated enough, good luck on your decision making - you've gotten a ton of advice!

    Jennifer @ Herding Kats In Kindergarten

  18. For two years a co-teacher and I had a pet hamster between the two of us....the first one was SUPER sweet and well handled and was LOVED by all the students. It passed on and I replaced it with what looked like a SUPER sweet one -- WRONG. It was sooo mean, it bit the children, it was growly -- it was just not a happy camper!

    We did do a lesson on a dead hamster -- died over the weekend -- I swooped it out said it was at the vet but it didnt look good- needed time to "FIND" a book to help explain what happened

    I think they can be good but it can also be a lot of work!! Both good / bad! How is that for a middle of the road post!

    Good Luck!
    Sarah Hetrick

  19. I had hamsters growing up and in college got my first guinea pig! She was much better than a hamster. Easier to hold, didn't bite, and loved to sleep in my hoodie pocket while I did homework. She didn't try to escape and was much harder to lose ;) She wasn't very expensive- about the same as a hamster, and I had 2-3 water bottles available in her cage. I tried not to leave her, but there was a few times I did and she was fine with all the water and some extra food and hay. I actually had two cages, one at home and one at school, and when I took her home, I just stuck her in a cardboard box with a blanket for the drive home. It was really easy!

  20. I love pets in the class ~ although make sure you clean the cage often so it doesn't smell. I've had guinea pigs and my kiddies always loved them and so did I. I'd take them home on the weekends. Some teachers let the kids, but I always wanted to make sure they were safe and well-loved:) Good luck with your decision!

    Grade ONEderful

  21. I am one of those that feels that pets should stay at home. Don't get me wrong, they're cute and all, but I feel like they can be a distraction to the kids who need to focus the most. Also, cleaning cages and tanks, feeding, and gernerally taking care of them is not what I want to do with my precious minutes after school! Good Luck with whatever you decide!

    P.S., I'm a new follower!
    Monarch Madness

  22. Here is a website site that allows teachers to write grants to offset the cost of pets in the classroom:
    (I'm not sure where I read about it tho!)

    I've only had tadpoles, fish, and snails in my room--no furry ones. I kept live plants in the tank, which supplied the animals with extra food if need be.

    I also elicit the help of students who have pets at home. They usually know the routines and responsibilities of pet care and they don't mind cleaning tanks!

    Good luck with your decision :o)

  23. I actually came across a book called "Goodbye Mousie" in my thrift store's $0.25 bin. It's a good little story for dealing with kids feelings about the death of a pet. Might be good to have on hand in case a sad event occurs.

    I am probably the biggest animal lover out there, but I have resolved against pets in the class. In my 1st grade class, I remember someone coming in over the weekend and taking our hamster, and we found it the next day in the toilet :( Last year, a friend of mine taught kindergarten and all their fish died in a week. I'm afraid I'D be the one getting too emotional if a pet passed away.

  24. I have a Giant African Land Snail as my class pet. It started out really small and now its a handful. When we first got it it was always hiding under the soil so my class named it Heidi Seek or Heidi for short. I send it home with children every weekend and one lucky student is picked from the hat to take it home for holidays. (Always get a parental permission slip signed beforehand of course!). The children love to have some time getting her out of the tank and handling her. Good to teach excellent hand washing techniques first though!!!

  25. I inherited a hamster from a teacher who was relocating to Hawaii. I was not thrilled as I really don't like rodents! I must say my thinking changed after seeing the excitement of my students. I got so many great stories about my different hamsters through the years... "Where's Oreo", The (mis)Adventures of Snowball were some great class books we made through shared writing.
    I agree that they can be smelly, but if you use good quality bedding and have it changed weekly it's not a problem. I had a "Take the Hamster Home" sign up posted at Curriculum Night. I can send you the parent letter, if you'd like. Every Friday the hamster went home with a student and was returned on Monday with a clean cage.
    I rarely bought anything. Parents donated everything- including toys, sweet treats etc.. We had a very spoiled hamster! Parents loved it too!
    At the end of the year the hamster got a permanent home with one of my students. I drew a name from those who had parent approval to keep the hamster forever. I got a new hamster every year so the class could name it and it was less likely to die during the year.
    Biting can be a problem. Kids need to be told -NEVER, ever put your fingers in the cage. I also encourage gloves for the first few months.
    Sadly, my school now has a no pets rule. my days of hamsters are over... good luck with yours!

  26. Hi Christina,
    I've been thinking a LOT about applying for the Pets in the Classroom grant. I am very much excited about the fun and learning that will come with a pet but I am very concerned about the extra work. Now that you've had your little baby girl for a few months, do you find it more difficult than you thought? How have you been handling the weekends and long breaks? Do you have any advice/opinions for a newbie? I appreciate any help you can give. Thanks!
    Hopelessly Devoted to Teaching


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