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Frustrated Guinea Pigs in the Classroom - an alternative point of view :)

Paula

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I just HATE the statement that "oh well what you're doing is better than most so it's fine".
Not anywhere, that I can find, is anyone actually saying this. The point that's been made is that the thought and research that this gal has put into these pigs is far and above that of most GP owners who pick up a pig at a pet store or a classified site and then proceed to leave the animal(s) in a tiny cage and more or less neglect it or them. THAT is to be commended and the idea shouldn't be shot down *only* because of the fact that she plans to keep them in a classroom for some of their lives.

A couple other thoughts after reading some of the replies ... RE Stuffed animals instead of live guinea pigs: I don't think there's any way to demonstrate proper care or consequences with stuffed animals. Part of what she said she was hoping to do was set up learning experiences with the kids, which included building ramps and bridges ... there's no way to see if the pigs actually use/enjoy them if they're just looking at stuffed animals. I understand why this is a popular suggestion but it doesn't seem to me that its a very realistic one if you consider the objectives she's trying to reach in reading her original post.

RE: Personality of the pigs involved: I might be mistaken but I think this was her point when she said the pigs would be living with her over the summer and she'd be getting to know them and then either the males OR the females would go to the classroom. I took that to mean she's planning to assess their personalities and see which group/pair would be better suited in this environment.

RE: Kids taking the pigs out of the cage themselves with or without permission ... Couldn't this be easily resolved with a padlock on the cage?

And then, as to the inevitable notion that 5th graders are the worst possible age group for classroom pets because of their risk-taking behavior ... To me, it seems that there would be an argument against ANY age group and in the absence of really any other valid concern (or the valid concerns having valid solutions) ... to me that just seems like a last-resort fallback. If they were 1st or 2nd graders, they'd be too young to appreciate it; if they were middle-schoolers, they'd be too old to appreciate it. And the 5th grade range? Well, they're wild! To me, the 5th grade range seems like a good point to introduce the potential responsibility of taking care of pets and in doing so in a way that the kids aren't directly responsible, it seems like a great way for them to learn compassion for living creatures. Like I said, it's a lesson they may not learn anywhere else in their lives.
 

pinky

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I have to agree that classroom guinea pigs are really not suited to any age group but I can't say with certainty that 5th graders would necessarily be the worst possible age group. I can say from experience that that's an age where they're trying to stand out more and do crazy things to gain some prestige from their peers. I can think of a lot of impulsive things 5th grade boys have done for attention that could have gotten out of hand. My husband and I have a lot of teachers and administrators on both sides of our family so we've heard just about everything. My brother in law is a retired superintendent and his wife a kindergarten teacher, my sister is a special ed teacher at the middle school level, one niece who's a school social worker and another an early childhood teacher. My daughter has taught elementary school and is now a technology instructor in her district...... Another point to consider that if a 5th grader is lacking in compassion, it's doubtful that a cage with guinea pigs is going to be the answer to that child's problem. I don't think any kids need the distraction.
 

pinky

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That is an excellent thought. We are all so careful about what cleaning agents or even laundry detergent we use around our pigs. However the custodians, who have many rooms to clean, will probably not think about what they use around the pigs.

I also worry about a fire in the school at night. I realize that any of us could have a fire in our homes but at least we would, hopefully, be able to rescue our pigs. I'm a worrier though, I keep two cat carriers right by my cages so in the event of needing to quickly escape I can just grab my pigs and go.

That being said, I commend the OP for all her good thoughts and consideration for having classroom pets. She sounds like someone who has chosen the perfect career. Her students are indeed lucky to be taught by someone of her caliber.
You also have open houses, parent-teacher conferences, fire drills where there are individuals in there who have access to them and there's always the possibility of losing power during a storm or some sort of emergency where you can't get access to them.
 

jrv4babies

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I think you have thought this through very well and obviously have proper care at heart. There are a number of wild what if situations that people have brought up, but most of them are just that...wild what if situations. There are also some valid concerns brought up but I think you have either a) covered them in your original post. or b) will be responsible enough to recognize and address them when and if they occur.

I also agree a bunny could make a better classroom pet, but they are so different for so many reasons. Just how big is that room? I think you should have a cage with 2 guineas AND a bunny cage. :) :) :) :)

Especially when you consider how many parents don't let their children have pets these days.

SO glad you aren't the kind of teacher who just wants to give them a bunch of multiple choice tests.

You are planning WONDERFUL experiences for your students while still be thoughtful and respectful of the animals.

I wish you well!
 

MrsATeaches5th

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We have carpet in the classroom which is vacuumed each night. The only chemicals used are the desk cleaner wipes but I use those. The carpet gets cleaned in the summer.

Some of you said you didn't know of any research benefits to pets on the classroom. Do a quick Google search and you will find multiple articles supporting pets in the classroom. This site and the house bunny society both show opposition but psychologists and PetMD both support this. I guess I differ from many of you in that you are putting guinea pigs needs first but I am putting kids needs first.
 

Kenna18155

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I think it could work, as long as the children are well-behaved enough to not spook the piggies. Perhaps you could even include some type of reward system--the most well-behaved kid gets some extra pig-holding time, maybe.

It'd be a great opportunity to teach them about good cavy care. You could talk to them about cage size, floor time, proper diets, adoption, companionship, and more while showing them what a difference it makes in the pigs' happiness. That way, if they ever get pigs of their own, they'd treat them well.
 

Paula

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Another point to consider that if a 5th grader is lacking in compassion, it's doubtful that a cage with guinea pigs is going to be the answer to that child's problem. I don't think any kids need the distraction.
I wasn't suggesting, or really even thinking, that having guinea pigs in a classroom would resolve a kid's empathy disorder, if one exists, or be any kind of profound type of epiphany for kids that haven't been taught kindness or compassion otherwise. My point is it's an opportunity to model good, kind, compassionate, responsible care in a way that kids might not see or have elsewhere in their lives ... and if it can be done well and in a way that is courteous and responsible to the animals, then maybe it's an opportunity to embrace.

Also, while I'm sure there are parents who can see this only as a distraction, there are certainly others who would embrace it as a new learning experience. There's no way to know which kids will experience it as an opportunity versus a distraction until someone gives it a try.

I, frankly, think it sounds like a good opportunity to model excellent care of small animals in a way that is beneficial and engaging to kids that, as I've said, may not have the opportunity elsewhere or otherwise.
 

pinky

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I wasn't suggesting, or really even thinking, that having guinea pigs in a classroom would resolve a kid's empathy disorder, if one exists, or be any kind of profound type of epiphany for kids that haven't been taught kindness or compassion otherwise. My point is it's an opportunity to model good, kind, compassionate, responsible care in a way that kids might not see or have elsewhere in their lives ... and if it can be done well and in a way that is courteous and responsible to the animals, then maybe it's an opportunity to embrace.

Also, while I'm sure there are parents who can see this only as a distraction, there are certainly others who would embrace it as a new learning experience. There's no way to know which kids will experience it as an opportunity versus a distraction until someone gives it a try.

I, frankly, think it sounds like a good opportunity to model excellent care of small animals in a way that is beneficial and engaging to kids that, as I've said, may not have the opportunity elsewhere or otherwise.
A lot of it will depend on the mix of kids and the guinea pigs she bought. I asked my 24 year old son what he thought about pets in a 5th grade classroom. The first words out of his mouth was that they'd probably be mistreated. When it comes right down to it, though, the teacher is responsible for the kids and the animals so if she's confident that all of them will be safe, it's her choice to make.
 

mdodge

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Just another quick observation what kind of vacuum is it something quite or makes a lot of noise as it could spook the piggies. also were talking about the students how many in your class and is thier an aid also with you in your class. and we're would the piggies be placed near any vents or on a stable large table ?
 

pinky

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I'm curious about the feeding and cleaning routine. I'd be interested in reading some sort of journal on daily events regarding the guinea pigs.
 

BaconAndEggs

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I must say, some great points have arisen. Fifth grade is the "turning point" for a lot of kids, where they throw away the innocent, stinker-like image of an elementary school-goer and take on the new one of a big, bad middle school-goer(if that is how it works in other states :D). But with the right amount of suggestion and constant reminder that "you'll get a -behavioral mark- if you decide to be funny around these guinea pigs-they are living creatures, and deserve to be respected!", I suppose there may not be an issue. I must say, there is always that possibility that there is one person who has that kind of defiance or cruelty that decided to do something awful. It is somewhat rare for that to happen, but it is a risk that should be taken into consideration.

Live animals are a great way to educate-your class sounds so fun, I wish I could move to your school, go back a few years, and be in it! :) You do sound like a very caring, thoughtful person and have thought these things out well. I have seen many cases where animals positively impact children. But I have one warning-some skittish guinea pigs will stay skittish, no matter how much you train them.
 

foggycreekcavy

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I taught kindergarten in the public school system years ago. I had guinea pigs, rats, birds, and a rabbit.

I brought the pigs to school each Monday, and took them home each Friday. My cages were small, unfortunately. I loaded them all up in the canopy of my truck. Once my truck broke down and the principal came to pick me up, and there was no way he would put the pig cages in his Lincoln Town Car. So they went into the trunk. Not a great situation.

The birds were so messy and noisy. They were finches. I loved them, but I am pretty sure the custodian did not. I brought them home on weekends, too. Not the best situation for them to be transported in all kinds of weather.

The rats were fun, but too fast and wiggly for the kids to hold.

Once my room flooded overnight. Luckily the animals were on a table, but it was still very damp. Once the boiler broke, and there was no heat. One time I was home sick and one of my birds died. The substitute was traumatized.

Honestly the rabbit was the best pet for the classroom. He had the run of the room, and was potty trained to go in his cage. Unfortunately I was too young/stupid/uninformed to know that he should have had a companion.

I'm not against having pets in the classroom if you do it correctly. I certainly did not, and most of the ones I've seen these days don't, either. In many of the districts around here you can't anymore, because of allergies and liability.

Oh, I forgot. I subbed in a behavior disorder classroom once (I don't know if they even have them now) and every desk had a very tiny cage on it with a rabbit or guinea pig in it. Some of the bunnies could hardly turn around. The teacher claimed it helped the kids focus, but in my experience it distracted them. Not to mention the room smelled pretty bad.
 

barbaramudge

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As a rabbit owner I'd like to pipe in on that....they would NOT make a better, or even good, class pet imo. They are like toddlers themselves. They will chew anything and could easily get into something they shouldn't. Very few rabbits like to be held or restrained at all. They can be box trained but they will still leave poos, possibly everywhere. They need large cages and lots and lots of free roaming time. Rabbits as class pets are not any better than guinea pigs and possibly worse as they are more likely, in my experience, to nip if handled in properly and if you've ever tried to handle a figgity rabbit than you know those back legs are super powerful!

Just my two cents there on rabbits.
 

pinky

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I taught kindergarten in the public school system years ago. I had guinea pigs, rats, birds, and a rabbit.

I brought the pigs to school each Monday, and took them home each Friday. My cages were small, unfortunately. I loaded them all up in the canopy of my truck. Once my truck broke down and the principal came to pick me up, and there was no way he would put the pig cages in his Lincoln Town Car. So they went into the trunk. Not a great situation.

The birds were so messy and noisy. They were finches. I loved them, but I am pretty sure the custodian did not. I brought them home on weekends, too. Not the best situation for them to be transported in all kinds of weather.

The rats were fun, but too fast and wiggly for the kids to hold.

Once my room flooded overnight. Luckily the animals were on a table, but it was still very damp. Once the boiler broke, and there was no heat. One time I was home sick and one of my birds died. The substitute was traumatized.

Honestly the rabbit was the best pet for the classroom. He had the run of the room, and was potty trained to go in his cage. Unfortunately I was too young/stupid/uninformed to know that he should have had a companion.

I'm not against having pets in the classroom if you do it correctly. I certainly did not, and most of the ones I've seen these days don't, either. In many of the districts around here you can't anymore, because of allergies and liability.

Oh, I forgot. I subbed in a behavior disorder classroom once (I don't know if they even have them now) and every desk had a very tiny cage on it with a rabbit or guinea pig in it. Some of the bunnies could hardly turn around. The teacher claimed it helped the kids focus, but in my experience it distracted them. Not to mention the room smelled pretty bad.
There's a big difference with kindergarteners and 5th graders. [MENTION=33364]BaconAndEggs[/MENTION] summed up my thoughts exactly. You often see similar behavior with 8th graders. As far as kids with actual behavior disorders, my son had BD two boys in his grade in elementary school who were mainstreamed. One of them was finally transferred out of the school after he grabbed another kid in a choke hold and wrestled him to the the ground before a staff member could react. I can't imagine what he could have done to a small pet.
 

labgirl5

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I guess I differ from many of you in that you are putting guinea pigs needs first but I am putting kids needs first.

The thing is... Kids don't NEED pets in the classroom. Heck, it could be bad for a large majority of them because of allergies. I strongly doubt that having a living, breathing animal in a classroom is in the curriculum, or else all fifth-grade classrooms would have pets.

You are responsible for the guinea pigs, and you should put their needs first. I personally feel that they shouldn't have to be unhappy just because you feel that they could benefit learning. A classroom really isn't a great environment for skittish, prey-animal piggies. They are very fragile creatures, and even a jump from somebody's hands or startled at a loud noise could result in a guinea pig with a broken spine.
 

Neferyn

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Not to mention she is the one putting the guinea pigs in a situation where she "has" to choose who to put first... :S




The thing is... Kids don't NEED pets in the classroom. Heck, it could be bad for a large majority of them because of allergies. I strongly doubt that having a living, breathing animal in a classroom is in the curriculum, or else all fifth-grade classrooms would have pets.

You are responsible for the guinea pigs, and you should put their needs first. I personally feel that they shouldn't have to be unhappy just because you feel that they could benefit learning. A classroom really isn't a great environment for skittish, prey-animal piggies. They are very fragile creatures, and even a jump from somebody's hands or startled at a loud noise could result in a guinea pig with a broken spine.
 

mufasa

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I won't get into the debate over whether or not guinea pigs in the classroom are appropriate as I can see valid points on both side, but [MENTION=35334]MrsATeaches5th[/MENTION] did you know you can get start-up grant money? I hope you'll adopt rather than buy a pig, but it looks like you can get money for supplies, not just purchasing an animal: http://www.petsintheclassroom.org/

You have to turn in your application by June 9.
 

joys_cavies

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I won't get into the debate over whether or not guinea pigs in the classroom are appropriate as I can see valid points on both side, but [MENTION=35334]MrsATeaches5th[/MENTION] did you know you can get start-up grant money? I hope you'll adopt rather than buy a pig, but it looks like you can get money for supplies, not just purchasing an animal: http://www.petsintheclassroom.org/

You have to turn in your application by June 9.
I believe she has already said that she HAS adopted guinea pigs from Craig list (her very first post on this thread)
 

frNzR4evr

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It doesn't really matter how well-intended you are; you KNOW guinea pig experts advise against it, you KNOW you're going to get slack for it because you KNOW it's not the right option, and yet you want to do so anyways. Why? If you were doing it for the sake of the piggies, you wouldn't even consider using them as a classroom pet. It is a life guinea pigs are NOT suited for; and that is an irrefutable fact.
with the respect due, I think you mean to say "flack", not "slack". I 100% trust [MENTION=35334]MrsATeaches5th[/MENTION]'s discretion here. She clearly will not allow any harm to befall the Wheekers she chooses to take to her class for Mon-Fri.

Do you remember when you were in grade 5? My class had a pair of white rats, Pinky & Honey, our Science for that year was Biology, and being trusted to take them home for the weekend (parent approved, obviously) was a reward for good behaviour

When it comes to Guinea Pigs, will they not prefer the interesting, social aspect of a classroom, over being left home alone in their cage while Mrs. A. is at work? Up here (Toronto area), much trial of Wheekers as therapy animals is being done, especially with (supervised of course) Seniors & those suffering Depression
 
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