When teacher Hollie Nelsen arrives in her classroom each morning, Cleo is there to greet her. And when students leave at the end of the day, Cleo stays behind. That’s because she lives in the school! Cleo, a bearded dragon, is one of the pets at the Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences in Florida. Students at the middle school care for about 50 fish and 2 rats in addition to Cleo.
Tara Tahmosh, the school’s principal, says having pets in classrooms has helped students feel less anxious. She adds that being around the animals has also improved the kids’ behavior.
“They become a little more respectful,” Tahmosh explains. “They won’t raise their voices. They don’t want to upset an animal.”
But some people think classrooms aren’t good homes for pets, which are often left alone overnight and on weekends. Critics also worry that being in busy classrooms with kids poking at the cages or tanks can be stressful for the animals.