By GERRI MCDONALD
Special to Atmore News
The fifth-grade class at Perdido Elementary School has a pet – Sebastian the guinea pig.
Each week a different group takes care of feeding and watering Sebastian. They know that to keep him from being scared when they take him out of his cage, one of the group will hold him gently next to their chest, while the others refill his food and water bottle.
The most important aspect of having a classroom pet is to help students learn to be responsible in the care for the animals.
There are several benefits of children helping with pets in the classroom:
* Even kids with no exposure to animals or nature in their home environment can see, feel, touch and make connections to the wide world of animals.
* Observing and caring for an animal instills a sense of responsibility and respect for life.
* A pet brings increased sensitivity and awareness of the feelings and needs of others – both animals and humans.
* Kids learn that all living things need more than just food and water for survival.
* Students will see directly how their behavior and actions affect others.
* Studies show that the presence of animals tends to lessen tension in the classroom.
Students say that the best part about having a classroom pet is, “hearing him eat and make funny chirping noises,” “seeing him jumping around his cage like a rabbit” and, of course, the favorite part is “getting to hold him.”