(Family Features) All pets bring us closer to the natural world, but specialty pets, such as fish, small pets and reptiles, provide a unique way to inspire kids to learn about the world around them. As teachers and families gear up for the start of a new school year, pets can help teach kids responsibility and how to keep a routine. They can sharpen kids' math and science skills through activities such as measuring food and water, keeping track of days of the week on a calendar and studying information about their care needs.
Learning in the classroom and beyond
Specialty pets can help make learning fun and help students learn more than just traditional academics. By working with their peers at school (or siblings at home), students learn teamwork and responsibility.
These pets also provide hands-on learning and teach lessons that will serve students their whole lives. According to Joel Sartore, National Geographic photographer and specialty pet owner, specialty pets offer many life skills and learning opportunities, such as:
- Teaching kids responsibility and the importance of routines. Pets need regular food, water and cleaning of their habitats, and these tasks make learning valuable skills fun.
- Helping kids learn to care for something beyond themselves. Kids often see pets as friends and want to protect them. Adults can explain that too much noise scares a pet, and the child will understand the need for good behavior.
- Providing a better understanding of the natural world. Learning about a country or climate becomes more meaningful when a child can interact directly with an animal that has roots there.
- Allowing kids to relate to their peers. Bonding with a pet can give kids common ground with each other and help build friendships.
Create a healthy habitat
If you are considering bringing a specialty pet into your classroom or home, you will need to provide an appropriate habitat. High-quality pet products that mimic animals' natural environments are the best option to support pet health. Such environments can also spark the curiosity of children into the world of specialty pets with products that represent their habitats in realistic and authentic ways. The pet experts at National Geographic and PetSmart offer the following recommendations to get you started.
For aquatics pets: The Aqua Oasis Aquarium is a complete starter kit, including an internal power filter with filtration media and a submersible heater. Available in various sizes, it features a curved, seamless bow-front, allowing for uninterrupted views with easy access for feeding. Low-profile hoods and integrated LED lighting add elegance, while the addition of coordinated 3-D backgrounds and décor allow pet parents to create a natural environment.
For reptile pets: The Reptile Sanctuary ensures your pet will stay securely inside while allowing pet parents to feed, play with and interact through various points around the tank. Depending on the pet's natural environment, the National Geographic line has tanks designed as desert or tropical climates and coordinated 3-D backgrounds and décor can be added to enhance these natural themes.
For small pets: The Exploration Loft is available in two sizes and offers a 360-degree view into multi-level play areas and your pets' daily lives and interesting instinctual behavior. A skylight provides easy access and fresh airflow, plus cleaning is simple with a removable top.
For additional information on the care of specialty pets, including proper habitats, feeding and more, visit www.petsmart.com/natgeo. Teachers can apply for a grant to receive a pet in their classroom at www.petsmart.com/teachers.