Posted: 23 Aug 2011 12:13 PM PDT
Guinea Pigs are popular pets because they pack lots of personality into a small package. They love attention, and their sounds and actions are quite entertaining! These qualities have led many teachers to consider a guinea pig as a classroom pet.
If you're thinking about getting a guinea pig for your classroom, it's important to realize that they are high-maintenance animals. They can't be left in a small cage day in and day out. They need plenty of space to run around and lots of human interaction every single day. They're also notoriously messy, so you'll need to set aside time each day for cleaning up after them. If a child in your class turns out to be allergic to guinea pigs, you may have to make special accommodations or remove the guinea pig from the classroom. Even so, for many teachers, the benefits of a guinea pig as a class pet far exceed the disadvantages.
Children love guinea pigs because they are so active and fun-loving. However, guinea pigs are more appropriate for older children than younger ones. Small children may be too rough with them or accidentally drop and injure them. These creatures are best suited to children aged 10 and up, but they can work for younger age groups with close adult supervision.
Having a guinea pig in the classroom provides lots of educational opportunities. It's great for teaching kids about responsibility, as you can assign a different child to clean the cage or feed the pet each day. And since a guinea pig's favorite meal consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, it's great for encouraging healthy eating. Special education teachers have also found that children with autism or other special needs can benefit greatly from interacting with guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs need a large cage with a solid floor. They also need a thick layer of bedding, which may consist of aspen shavings or manufactured bedding. Their diet should consist primarily of fresh timothy, but they also need a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables each day. Toys should be provided to keep them busy during class. Wooden bird toys and cat balls with bells in them are good choices. The cage should be thoroughly cleaned every day.
For a dedicated, animal-loving teacher, a guinea pig can be a fabulous class pet. For your care and attention, you will be rewarded with ample learning opportunities and lots of smiles from your students. The most important things to remember are to provide daily floor time for the guinea pig, keep the cage clean, and provide for its care on the weekends (either by taking it home or allowing students to keep it over the weekend). And don't forget the fresh fruits and veggies!
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