The number of grants offered through the Pet Care Trust (PCT) to classrooms around the nation has more than doubled since August 2011, says the organization’s executive director, Steve King. The program is offered through Pets in the Classroom, PCT’s education arm, which aims to foster healthy pet-child relationships in students in elementary and middle school. King credits the program’s huge growth to a new partnership with Petco and Petsmart, which now advertise the program in their stores. “Our goal is to reach 1 million students in 30,000 classrooms,” says King.
The program aims to allow students with no exposure to animals or nature in their home to make connections with the world of animals. According to PCT, caring for animals instills a sense of responsibility and respect for life, brings increased sensitivity, and fosters a sense that all living things need more than just food and water for survival. According to King, pets add to the curriculum as students learn about their background and natural habitat. Moreover, teachers have told King that pets loosen tension in the classroom and improve attendance rates and classroom discipline. In 2011, the program awarded more than 7,000 grants of up to $150 to eligible teachers for purchasing classroom pets.
As the program grows, King says the foundation will be building resources for teachers who would like lesson plans to incorporate their pets into their classrooms. To seek a grant through PCT, visit www.petsintheclassroom.org.