March 31 – Chickens, chinchillas, and a baby pig aren’t what you see in an average school classroom. But for one class at Mandarin Oaks Elementary, they have become a staple.
The Animal Lovers Club, started by teacher Ana Andenmatten, focuses on teaching children how to take care of animals. Andematten says she also hopes that the club – comprised of more than 60 students meeting on a biweekly basis – helps foster a love of animal care and science.
“It shows compassion and responsibility,” said Andenmatten. “They’re taking care of the animals. They’re learning about the animals in real life.”
Students, ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade, are able to interact with animals that they normally wouldn’t get to see up close, like bearded dragons and hedgehogs. They learn about the animals by feeding them, taking care of them, and writing notes on their habitat and behavior.
As students take note of the animals’ behavior, teachers note that the students’ own behavior begins to change.
“I have some teachers coming to me saying, ‘He is my shyest one, but he is so excited going to that club,’” Andenmatten said. If a child is having a bad day or is socially awkward, they can come interact with the animals to calm down.
Along with the emotional benefits, Mrs. Andenmatten also emphasizes the impact the club could have on a child’s career path. Throughout the school year, various pet groomers and veterinarians visit the club to answer questions and talk to students about their careers.
Watch the video above to learn more about the benefits students receive from participating in the Animal Lovers Club. The club’s next meeting takes place on April 12.