Many Preschools, Nursery Schools, and Daycares have done away with the notion of a Class Pet. It used to be that many child care centers had some sort of resident critter like a hamster, turtle or a parakeet. Modern times have brought allergies, fears of disease, possible liabilities, and too much added responsibilities to the prospect of classroom pets. That’s a shame, certainly, because children learn so much from the experience. Especially for those with no pets at home. However there is a compromise to be made between concerns over pet allergies and the risk of biting or scratching, and the need for children to experience a class pet: a fish tank.
Fish are the ultimate class pet. No one needs to take them home over a weekend, they won’t ever bite anyone, and no one is allergic to pet fish. Yet they provide the experience of caring for and learning from an animal just like a guinea pig or hermit crab. Several kinds of fish require so very little in the way of tank setup and food. The Beta fish is a hardy and resilient pet fish that could live in a coffee mug if it had to, though that’s not recommended. There is also the potential to be more elaborate with the fish tank, getting a large one with colorful rocks, plants, and other additions, not to mention the amazing colorful fish that will live in it. Children can be part of the planning process, from filling the tank with rocks and decor, to pouring water in, choosing the fish, and giving them names. The experience will teach them about patience, as most tanks must cure the water for up to two weeks before adding fish. Class jobs may include feeding the fish or polishing the fingerprints off the outside of the tank. For some lucky classrooms, a little lesson in reproduction might occur as well.
Still not convinced of the benefits of a simple fish tank in the classroom? Here are a few bonus items to consider:
- Fish provide the opportunity for children to explore concepts like neutral buoyancy, breathing with gills, and ocean ecology
- The presence of a tank in the classroom relieves stress and can be soothing for children who are missing parents, or are having a rough day
- Taking care of an animal teaches children to be nurturing, compassionate, and responsible
- Verbally late-blooming children often discover their voices when talking to animals
- The fish tank provides many teachable moments from counting and colors, to telling stories about the fish and their adventures. The children will want to draw the fish and make up stories about their activities and lives. This is a precursor to literacy.
- Watching the fish and noting changes in the tank sharpens keen powers of observation
- As nature takes its course, conversations will occur. Even the death of a fish can help children to understand more about their life, and the lives of all earth’s inhabitants.
When parents are touring prospective Preschools, Daycare Centers, Nursery Schools, After School Programs and Day Camps, they can be sure that the presence of a fish tank in the classroom is an indicator of an environment rich with learning and growth opportunities. For parents whose children are already enrolled at a center without a fish tank, consider offering to set up or maintain a class aquarium for the children to enjoy and learn from. At Prime Time Early Learning Centers, we are proud to include a colorful fish tank as part of our educational environment. From Middletown to Farmingdale, Paramus to Hoboken, children at our Prime Time centers are offered an opportunity to enjoy and study our fish tank habitats, and to derive all the associated benefits of sharing in the lives of another animal species.