Nongame Wildlife Program

Nongame wildlife specialists

Other ways to help

Teachers' Pets: Tips for keeping classroom animals and new ways to engage your students

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healthy tortoise pet

Healthy pet tortoise

Here is a picture showing the large enclosure and special lighting requirements to keep a tortoise kept indoors healthy.

Image courtesy of Beth Girard.

healthy tortoise pet

View of tortoise's enclosure from above

Another view of the tortoise enclosure.

Image courtesy of Beth Girard.

healthy tortoise pet

Outdoor learning

Outdoor learning can be a great way to grasp students' attention; even the most urban wetlands are teaming with life. Partnering with a local nature center, park, or other DNR staff can be educational for both the students and the instructor. Here is a DNR staff person teaching students about the fishes of Minnesota.

healthy tortoise pet

Fish Survey

DNR staff show students one of many techniques used to survey Minnesota fishes.

healthy tortoise pet

Students learn to identify Minnesota fishes

Students learning to identify Minnesota fishes. Hands-on experiences like this can grasp students' attention and hopefully ignite their passion for the environment and the creatures that inhabit it.

It is important to grasp students’ attention in the classroom, and science classrooms offer a plethora of opportunities to do so. One of the more common ways teachers engage students in a science classroom, especially those in a biological or an environmental course, is through the keeping of classroom animals. Whether teachers select amphibians, birds, fishes, insects, mammals, or reptiles, it is important to be mindful of the past, present, and future responsibilities that keeping an animal in the classroom will bring. Whenever possible, observe animals in the wild and release after brief discussion (many small wetlands contain a diverse group of animals and plants). Below are a few points that should be considered BEFORE bringing animals into the classroom.

Buy only captive bred animals! Wild-caught animals are still common in the pet-trade, many of which are illegally collected – poached, and should be avoided when possible. It is important to ask animal sellers, pet-stores, and biological supply companies where the animal of interest originated. If they cannot tell you, they are most likely wild caught.

Choose appropriate animals! Many species make poor captives, especially those that require specialized diets or extreme temperatures (i.e., not all animals can thrive at room temperature).

Think long term! It is important to have plans in place for animals once the course is over, or during the summer months.