Reptiles in the classroom

Reptiles and amphibians, also known as herptiles, like frogs, salamanders, turtles, lizards, snakes, and alligators, can be fascinating for young children. We have several throughout our school including Shy Shell, Boxy, Tuck and Rainbow, Silence, Ziggy, Bart, and Ramona. 

There are so many wonderfully beautiful species with amazing and diverse capabilities, much like your own children. We encourage you, as we learn about reptiles and amphibians, to try and not transfer your worries and fears to your children, but to continue to help flame the spark of wonder that your child feels when investigating something new.

We have carefully chosen animals for our school that offer safe and rich experiences that help children and others grow.  We also ask that you speak with your children, as we do at school, about the safety concerned with any interactions with wildlife or domestic animals. 

Our rules at school around pets include the following guidelines for animals at school from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Children will be closely supervised during contact with animals to discourage contact with manure and soiled bedding.
  • Hand-to-mouth contact (e.g., thumb sucking) will be discouraged.
  • Appropriate hand washing will be required after each interaction with an animal.
  • Staff will be present to encourage appropriate human-animal interactions.
  • If feeding animals, only food for that purpose will be allowed in the space with the animal present.

When interacting with wildlife we also have a set of closely followed guidelines that includes:

  • Adults and children will approach wildlife after a teacher has given the okay, especially around animals like frogs, toads, salamanders, snakes, and turtles.
  • Adults and children will not approach wildlife that may become unsafe like deer, raccoons, geese, turkeys, alligators, and large predators.
  • Wildlife will be treated with care and respect.
  • Any wildlife handled will be returned to their natural habitat after the interaction—some exceptions can occur for tadpoles, turtles, etc. that may visit the classroom for a limited amount of time.
  • Staff will supervise all interactions with wildlife.
  • Adults and children will wash hands or use hand sanitizer, depending on the place of the interaction, after handling any wildlife.

Animals in the classroom 

By Marie Lister

Getting to know our classroom pets Bart (the ball python) and Boxy (the box turtle) has become an important part of how we build a sense of community in my classroom. 

Early on in the year we bring the animals to large group and pay careful attention to what the animals look like and how they move as the children draw in their journals. As a group, we talk about how we can work together to care for Bart and Boxy, and think about what kind of care we can give to things that are alive. 

It’s a wonderful way for us to join together as a group while we’re still getting to know each other and establishes a sense of shared pride that threads its way throughout the school year.