We have pets at school; we have 2 guinea pigs, they officially belong to our Early Years Base. They are funny little things, scurrying around their cage with their hair stuck out all over the place. They tend to hide as soon as you try to look at them and then suddenly darting out to nibble a carrot or chew on their water bottles.
I think that they were obtained because the Early Years staff like guinea pigs, I think children’s involvement was secondary. At the beginning of the autumn term they lived in their run in the Early Years outside area during the day and in the hutch in the shed at night. It became too cold so a large cage in the corridor was sorted.
The guinea pigs get involved in everything – snack time, they are happy to come and have a carrot. Lunchtime, they are happy to be petted by some of the children, in an orderly manner, sat at a table with a towel out (just in case of accidents). You arrive at school to find some of the children who can show some of the most challenging behaviour queuing up, “Please Miss, is it my turn to clean out the guinea pigs?” At lunchtimes when they were outside in the run there would invariably be groups of children standing quietly watching just in case they decided to come out of their igloos, if only we could harness this amount of attention in the classroom!
We have also found that as an emotional literacy resource they are great – if children are a bit sad, stroking a guinea pig helps. A reward is needed – would you like to hold a guinea pig? SLT had had a hard day, so one day they came to an SLT meeting – not much was done as we all wanted to watch the guinea pigs and laugh as they charged round the towel to get the carrot sticks we were offering. It is amazing how two very little creatures can lift the mood around the place.
I wasn’t bothered one way or the other when the idea of school pets was muted but I think I’m going to miss having them just down from my office when the weather is officially warm enough for them to go outside during the day.