Help our middle school students choose a class pet!

For the month of September, our Middle School class at the Oak Learners Lake Shore Campus has been engaged in an inquiry-based learning project to choose a class pet.

The students have learned about the importance of responsible animal caretaking while also investigating the pros and cons of having a class pet. They have researched the costs and necessary budget required for different types of pets as well as the feasibility of each type of habitat.

Each student then chose one potential pet to research in depth. They prepared a persuasive writing presentation and sample habitat to share with the class. The students were passionate and highly engaged in learning about the various options, including the option to NOT have a class pet! Throughout the learning unit, students were also reading “The One and Only Ivan” as a class novel study and expressed a wide range of emotions towards holding animals in captivity.

At the end of the presentations, the class was still divided on the topic, so we decided to take the project one step further and reach out to the community! We have provided each students’ persuasive paragraph for each possible choice below and are asking for YOUR help to weigh in on the decision!

Voting will be open throughout the Thanksgiving weekend and will close on Monday, October 9th, 2023. Students will analyze the data on Tuesday, October 10th, and make a final decision.

Thank you for taking the time to weigh in on this very important decision for our class!

Should we get a SKINK? 

The Plestiodon fasciatus ( also known as the American five lined skink) The range of the American five-lined skink extends in the north to southern Ontario, Michigan and Eastern New York, the western border is in Minnesota, Missouri and eastern Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas. Their tails, if broken off, can regrow in 2 months. The American five-lined skink eats fruit, bugs and vegetables. Their habitat should have moist, hardwood areas with a permanent running water source as well as sites to bask in the sun and places to hide such as under bark and stone cracks. A pair of skinks can comfortably live in a 100-110 litre terrarium. They grow to about 12 to 21 centimetres long. Their predators are snakes, crows, hawks, shrews, moles, opossums, skunks, raccoons, and domestic cats. A pair of skinks can live up to 5-10 years with adequate care. The American five-lined skink has 5 white and yellow lines running to their bright blue tail. 

Should we get a GARTER SNAKE?

Garter snakes make great classroom pets because they are easy to take care of. They don’t do much and they adapt well to different environments. They eat snails, earthworms, leeches, small fish, grasshoppers, and other insects, which we can buy at most pet stores. They don’t need a lot of room and can live up to 10 years or more. They are also not poisonous to humans and are gentle and like to be held. This is why garter snakes make a great class pet. (bows).

Should we get a CORN SNAKE?

Corn snakes are constrictors, wrapping themselves around prey to squeeze and subdue it before swallowing it whole.

The name corn snake may have originated from the markings on this snake’s belly, which resemble maize, or Indian corn.

Adult Corn snakes will need at least a 40-gallon terrarium. This is a very good classroom pet because it is  3-5 feet and easy to take care of. The corn snakes eat mice, meat, eggs, and raw meats. Corn snakes need about 1 inch of water a day. Corn snakes need a bowl of water that is 2.54 centimeters. 

Contrary to what you might think, corn snakes can make great classroom pets. Recommended beginner snakes like the corn snake come in a variety of beautiful colors and patterns, are docile and generally grow to about 3-5 feet.

Should we get a CHUBBY FROG? 

The Banded Bullfrog is also known as a Chubby Frog because they are really cute and chubby! 

We should get one so that Maya would have a little friend in the classroom. 

It would swim in a little bowl in the terrarium.

There would be a lot of ideas for names like Mikey, Leo,etc

The Chubby Frog will only grow up to 2-3 inches and we could learn a lot about amphibians when we see it grow.

It would jump a lot and be fun to watch! 

Should we get a TORTOISE?

I think that we can get a Greek Tortoise because they can teach us how to care for animals. I also think they are kinda cute!

They’re not like hamsters or birds or other warm-blooded pets, so they will require some special care. They are not good with young children but they are good with middle schoolers to high schoolers or older. This means they could be a great fit for our class! Older kids—middle school and over—can make great caretakers for tortoises and turtles if they are properly trained. 

Tortoises are docile and sweet animals. These are all reasons why we should definitely get a tortoise!

Should we NOT get a class pet?

Buying a class pet is like buying death and selling your freedom. 

First, there’s an 8/15 chance they have Salmonella and a 7/15 chance they can have ringworm. There is also a 6/15 they can have tapeworms and more.

Also, there have been reports of abuse, such as a snake being microwaved! Buying pets can support breeders and other cruel sellers.

Don’t forget that during an emergency, a classroom pet is most likely to get left behind and die. Animals are supposed to run free in the wild not caged up in a school.  Come on guys – we are literally reading a book about this!! Think about Ivan. (from The One and Only Ivan)

Maybe we can’t change. Humans can’t change. From our dog’s bleeding nose to our kid’s cuts, we will always be guilty and have blood on our hands. But, maybe, just maybe, this will make us less guilty. Maybe this will bring us just one step closer to change.

Kelly Farrell

Kelly Farrell is the Founder and Director of Oak Learners. She is dedicated to supporting learners of all ages and abilities reach their goals and love the learning journey. Kelly’s philosophy of education is based in the understanding that every child has the capacity to excel and succeed when they are given the tools and taught the skills to help them on their journey.
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