Pet Care Trust: Study shows pets in the classroom improve student learning

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The Pets in the Classroom Grant Program recently announced the results of its 2024 Teacher Survey, which surveyed teachers across the United States and Canada who received grant funding for classroom pets in the past two years. The program received an overwhelming response from over 2,100 teachers, and the survey results underscore the many ways that classroom pets have a positive impact on students, from improving social-emotional development to improving academic engagement and cultivating a love of learning.

Ninety-nine percent of respondents said having a pet in the classroom was a positive experience, and teachers reported that interacting with animals in the classroom helped improve attendance, reduce anxiety, foster empathy and compassion, improve test and academic performance, develop social skills, increase self-esteem, and reduce disciplinary action. The data, combined with comments teachers shared in the survey, show the impact that animals have in the classroom:

Frequency: Eighty percent of teachers have noticed an improvement in attendance because of their classroom pet. One teacher shared, “I have a student who has terrible attendance. She’s missed very little this year; her mother told me it’s because she’s responsible for taking care of our classroom pets every day.”

Reduce anxiety: Ninety-five percent of teachers have seen a decrease in anxiety among students. One teacher noted, “I have a lot of students who struggle a lot with anxiety and emotional regulation, and having and keeping animals in my classroom has been a gift for me. They are able to step outside of the situation and care for the animal in a way that also helps them calm down and regulate their emotions.”

Empathy/compassion: Nearly 98 percent of teachers have seen an increase in empathy and compassion as a result of having a classroom pet. “I’ve noticed a huge change in my students’ empathy. Hearing how they care for our classroom pet (a betta fish) makes a huge difference in how they treat each other.”

Test/study results: Nearly 79 percent of teachers have seen improvements in test/academic scores. One teacher said, “Students are super motivated to engage with the pet in the classroom, which has increased participation and test scores.”

Responsibility: Almost 98 percent of teachers have noticed an increase in student responsibility: “Having a pet in the classroom has helped us with classroom management and the children’s sense of responsibility. They are responsible for feeding our hamster and cleaning its cage. They have also learned how to handle it carefully and be quiet in our classroom so as not to hurt the hamster’s ears. One of the students even created her own book of hamster rules, it’s adorable. We are so happy to have our classroom pet – it’s a great addition to our community.”

Self-Esteem: Some 93 percent of teachers surveyed noted an improvement in their students’ self-esteem. One teacher commented, “Having Crocodile (our bearded dragon) in our classroom has brought about growth and confidence. Shy students have found their voices, and everyone has learned the value of empathy and responsibility. I would encourage most teachers to get a classroom pet.”

Improving social skills: Nearly 96 percent of teachers noted an increase in social skills: “I had several students who were not sociable and had trouble interacting with others. My class pet allowed these students to be responsible, engage with others, and feel a sense of community when they were tasked with caring for and supervising the class pet. These students are now more sociable, and other students take the time to get to know them on a personal level.”

Student involvement: Almost 98 percent of teachers have seen an increase in student engagement. One teacher said, “The kids are actively engaged. In a lot of the lessons in my science class, the concepts are abstract. But when I can connect that with Fluffy, they’re all instantly more engaged and understand the concepts better.”

Reducing the number of necessary disciplinary measures against students: Of the teachers surveyed, 87 percent saw a decrease in the need for disciplinary action against students: “I have several students who have behavioral issues in the classroom. Since we’ve had (our) animals in the classroom, their behavior and anxiety levels have decreased significantly. When they start to feel overwhelmed or a little out of control, they gravitate toward our animals. I’ve seen whatever they’ve been dealing with melt away in a matter of minutes.”

The statistics, coupled with the heartfelt comments from teachers about how pets make a difference in the lives of their students, truly show the impact of the program. One teacher stated, “Having a hamster in our classroom has been an absolute joy! Our little furry friend has not only brought smiles to our faces, but has also taught us valuable lessons about responsibility, empathy, and caring. Watching the students interact with the hamster has been heartwarming. They eagerly take turns feeding, cleaning, and playing with our little companion in the classroom. This has fostered a sense of teamwork and cooperation among them as they work together to ensure the hamster’s well-being. Additionally, having a hamster has added a unique element to our learning environment. It has been a constant source of fascination and curiosity, leading to spontaneous discussions about animal behavior, habitats, and life cycles. Overall, having a hamster in our classroom has enriched our learning experience in countless ways. He is not just a pet; he is a valued member of our classroom community who teaches us valuable lessons every day.”

The Pets in the Classroom Grants Scheme was established by the Pet Care Trust with the understanding that pets in the classroom can be a valuable teaching tool that many teachers do not have access to due to lack of funding. Since the scheme began in 2010, Pets in the Classroom has awarded 246,704 grants. This means that an estimated 9.8 million children have experienced the joy and benefits of caring for animals through the scheme.

Teachers are looking for new ways to support their students in the upcoming school year, and the Pets in the Classroom Grant Program is ready to help by providing funding to care for classroom animals for pre-kindergarten through ninth-grade teachers across the United States and Canada, starting August 1.