Many teachers think about class “pets” as a way to teach students about responsibility and caring for others, but a classroom simply isn’t a suitable home for an animal. Children can undoubtedly benefit from learning to care for animals, but that should take place in a way that allows everyone, including the animals, to thrive, which is impossible in a busy classroom. Leave animals out of the classroom—try adding a plant to your students’ learning environment instead!
Plants don’t have a nervous system, so unlike class “pets,” if they’re neglected or not well taken care of, no one suffers, and lessons can still be learned.
Ready for a class plant? Follow these four simple steps:
1. Choose an interesting-looking and hardy plant that can thrive in your classroom, keeping in mind sunlight and temperature requirements along with the effects of heating and air conditioning.
2. Introduce the plant to your students and find a special place for it. Choose a name for it together.
3. Make caring for the plant a class activity. Each week, designate a different student as the plant’s caretaker—meaning that they will be responsible for watering/misting it, slightly rotating it each day so that it gets even sunlight, giving it a trim, refilling low soil, and any other required maintenance as needed. You’ll likely find this role to be one of the most coveted classroom jobs!
4. Snap a picture each week of your students with their class plant. You could archive the photos so that everyone can look back on its—and their—growth and changes over the course of the school year.
Your students will be thrilled with the opportunity to care for a class plant, and you can even allow them the opportunity to take it home for the weekend, assuming full responsibility for its care.
What are some ideal plants for a classroom?
- Spider plants have long, thin green leaves and produce “spiderettes” that can be given to students to take home and care for at the end of the school year. What a great end-of-year tradition!
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- Jade plants have thick, rubbery leaves that retain water, so they’ll be fine left alone over the weekends—or if you occasionally forget to water them. Nobody’s perfect!
- Pothos plants can likely be found at your local superstore or home improvement store. They are fast-growing and can thrive without direct sunlight.
- Aloe plants produce small “pups” that students can learn to separate and repot to learn more about how plants grow.
- Air plants are sure to excite your students, as they don’t require any soil. They’re easy to care for, and when it’s time to water them, just soak their roots for 15 minutes.
Children should never be misled into thinking that animals exist to be used by humans in any way, including as class “pets.” And class plants are cheaper and easier to care for, plus they don’t suffer if they’re neglected.
Looking for ways to teach about animals and responsibility without using class “pets”? Try livestreaming videos of your students’ favorite animals, symbolically adopting an animal at a sanctuary, or developing activities involving a plush toy, like Ratty! For more ideas and support, visit our website and sign up for our e-mail list to stay up-to-date on humane classroom activities, lesson plans, contests, and more!