Remember the lines from the nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” about the lamb making the children laugh and play, so the teacher turned it out?
Well, small classroom pets may actually help improve academic performance and social skills in children, according to a new study.
The study, “Measuring the Social, Behavioral, and Academic Effects of Classroom Pets on Third and Fourth-Grade Students” looked at the impact of small, classroom animals on 591 students across the U.S. during the 2016-17 school year.
Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), The Pet Care Trust, and American Humane announced the online publication of the study.
Across the school year, teachers with classroom pets, which ranged from guinea pigs to small reptiles, saw increases in communication, cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, engagement and self-control.
Also seen were improvements in social competence and reading skills, and significant decreases in withdrawal, hyperactivity and inattention among their students, as compared to teachers in the control condition, without classroom pets.
Parents indicated they saw significantly greater increases in pro-social behaviors among their children compared to parents with children in classrooms without pets.
How the research was conducted:
American Humane’s research team recruited a total of 41 classrooms across 19 schools to take part in the study. 20 participating classrooms had a pet.
Teachers, students, and parents were asked to complete survey instruments at three designated time points over the course of the study period.
Teachers used their classroom pets for a variety of purposes, such as a reward for improved behavior/academics, and to help calm/relax students in stressful situations. A little over half of the teachers taught formal lessons that focused on or utilized the pet, teaching about responsibility, animal care and welfare.