Classroom Lessons for Animal Lovers and What They Teach Students

Jan 30, 2019 by

Outside of teaching basic math, reading, and writing skills, teachers are also responsible for fostering independence, self-confidence, and empathy in students. What better way to teach students about kindness, then by focusing on animals? Most children have a soft, nurturing place in their hearts for animals. Probably because most animals are innocent, helpless, and adorable. Incorporating animal-themed lessons into the classroom is about more than just petting soft baby chicks or brainstorming a name for the class fish. Read on to discover why animal lessons are important and how to make them work in the classroom.

What Animal Lessons Teach

Science and the study of living things is an important part of any classroom. In an early childhood setting, students are introduced to the lifecycle of a butterfly and may have the opportunity to watch chickens hatch in an incubator. As students progress into higher-level education, lessons become more in-depth and sometimes include dissection. While this may be unpleasant to some, it helps students grasp the inner workings of living organisms. Dissection may even lead to a career in surgery! But outside of the science behind animal-themed lessons lies compassion and empathy. These types of lessons help students understand the effect that their behavior has on other living things. It also helps students with becoming more intune with someone else’s feelings if they’re nonverbal or unable to explain themselves effectively. Not to mention, being around animals and other living creatures is said to reduce stress and anxiety in children. This makes for a more relaxed and functional classroom environment. Here are a few animal lessons to help add this compassionate dynamic to your classroom.

Adopt an Animal

Adopting an animal is the perfect way for students to learn about animal safety, endangered animals, and how to save them. Countless organizations allow children to adopt a specific animal. By adopting this animal, the class will likely receive a photograph, learn the name of the animal, where it lives, and why it’s endangered. The class can make monetary donations, safe and approved toys for the animal, or even color pictures and write letters to their adopted new friend. If there’s a local animal in need of protection, have the students write letters to their local government, encouraging them to help protect these animals in need. All of these things encourage students to think outside themselves and put forth effort to better the circumstance of someone (or something) else. If students are especially interested in helping animals, they can visit a wildlife conservation. You can read more about options here.

Pretend Play

It’s already proven that students learn through play. And that’s why the dramatic play area of any early childhood classroom is one of the most important. Here, students can use their creativity and imaginations to transport themselves anywhere they want to be. You can facilitate this play by adding new materials to the center periodically. When focusing on animals, create a veterinarian station, zoo, or farm. You can add stuffed animals and other materials that support the current lesson. Students will love playing doctor to their sick or injured pets. As a zookeeper, children pretend to wash, feed, and clean the animals. They might even milk a cow on the farm! All of these things help promote kindness and compassion. Not to mention, dramatic play is proven to enhance student’s communication and social skills.

Classroom Pet

What better way to get kids involved with animals then through hands on interaction? Classroom pets are beneficial for many reasons like teaching responsibility and accountability and adding a new “friend” to the class. The most popular classroom pet is a fish. That’s because fish are resilient and relatively easy to care for. Students can take turns feeding the fish and cleaning its tank. Children will love naming the fish, which can be done as a group. This activity alone teaches compromise and acceptance as children come up with different ideas and take a vote. Leave the class fish in the science area to deepen their experience in this subject. But fish aren’t the only way to bring nature into the classroom. Some teachers opt for classroom hamsters, bunny rabbits, or even gerbils. Be sure that both you and your students understand the responsibility that comes with getting these types of pets.

Become One With Nature

Taking students outdoors where they can experience wildlife first hand is a great way to see wildlife in its natural habitat. This doesn’t mean sneaking up on bears or deer. Safety is paramount at all times. Try bird watching at a safe distance using binoculars. Students can even make their own out of basic art supplies. Bring along a bird book that helps students recognize and identify the species they observe. They can keep a journal and take notes on what they see. If you’re lucky, you may see a birds nest with eggs inside or a bird feeding on a worm or other treat. You may even spot a squirrel, chipmunk, or deer. Just be sure to observe these animals from a safe distant. Watching their behavior and interactions teaches students a lot about how animals survive in their natural habitat. Children may become more appreciative of the convenience of having food in their refrigerator, a warm bed to sleep in, and clean water to drink, which are all valuable lessons.

Not all students are animal lovers, and that’s okay! They don’t need to be to learn from these lessons and deepen their social and emotional connection with others. Like with any classroom lesson, it’s important to take cues from the students. If the majority of the class is fascinated by animals from around the world, then spend your time watching live feed videos available, visit a zoo, or adopt an endangered species. Students that work best with hands on experiences might benefit from bringing chicken eggs into the classroom and watching them hatch. Most local farms are more than happy to work with schools to make this happen. Animals are innocent and fascinating for young minds, make them the perfect subject to design your lessons around.

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