Animals In The Classroom: The Debate Continues
This article summarizes the results of a 1987 study that measured the effects of having animals (gerbils, rabbits, mice, terrariums) in the classroom on high school students’ knowledge of and attitudes toward biology. Although students in classrooms with living plants and animals reportedly performed better than other students, these results are inconclusive based on study omissions.
In a 1985 study, Walter Saunders and Gary Young from Utah State University observed two groups of high school students, each in a separate learning environment. The control group was placed in a general-purpose classroom with no plants or animals present at any time during the study. In contrast, the experimental group had a variety of displays including mating rock doves, terrariums, aquariums, gerbils, rabbits, mice, and plants.
The results of the study showed that improvement from pre-tests to post-tests from the experimental group far exceeded those shown by the control group. However, the study was inconclusive because Saunders and Young did not address the question of the effect of animals in the classroom on student attitudes toward animals. Thus they omitted an important educational objective: the development of respect and concern for non-human animals.
Additionally, according to this critique of the study, the difference between a sterile and barren classroom may capture the interest of students on its own and the control classroom should have included pictures and posters of animals in their habitats for more conclusive findings.