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Sammamish Montessori School students circle around a pen containing their classroom pet bunnies

Students gather around the pet bunnies ready to intriduce themselves

How classroom pets can benefit a Montessori classroom

Sammamish Montessori School's experience with classroom rabbits

Classroom pets can play a transformative role in the educational experience of children. At the Sammamish Montessori School (SMS), we believe that integrating animals into our learning environment enriches our curriculum and fosters a range of essential life skills in our students. From teaching responsibility and empathy to providing unique hands-on learning opportunities, classroom pets become invaluable members of our educational community. These small companions offer children the chance to engage with nature and learn about biology in an interactive and personal way, enhancing their understanding of the world around them while also supporting their emotional and social development.

An example from Mrs. Veronica Burden’s class

Sammamish Montessori School teacher Veronica Burden

Sammamish Montessori School teacher Veronica Burden

Mrs. Veronica Burden is a dedicated and passionate Montessori educator. She has been with the Sammamish Montessori School for 32 years and leads our Montessori Primary Classroom (Room 1). With a wealth of experience in early childhood education, she brings a nurturing and empathetic approach to her classroom. Mrs. Burden is known for her innovative teaching methods and her ability to create a warm, engaging, and supportive learning environment for her students.

She explains her approach to using pets in her classroom: In my class, I have witnessed the positive impact that having bunnies can have on our students. I firmly believe that incorporating bunnies into our classroom environment is incredibly beneficial for our young learners. One of the main reasons why I love having bunnies in our class is that it teaches responsibility and empathy. By caring for the bunnies, my students learn how to feed them and provide love and attention. These hands-on experiences help students develop important life skills such as diversity, socio-emotional skills and empathy, that will serve them well into the future. Additionally, bunnies bring a sense of calm and tranquility to the classroom, creating a peaceful and inviting atmosphere where learning can flourish. This is particularly important in a Montessori environment, where we strive to create a nurturing and supportive space for our children to explore and grow.

Two students looking in on Sammamish Montessori classroom pet rabbits in their pen

Students in classroom learn about diversity through their classroom pets

Opportunities to grow character

Chloe and Bella, our new additions, provide opportunities for curiosity and observation, encouraging children to ask questions and seek answers, fostering a love of learning. By showing children the characteristics of these bunnies, we can teach about diversity and acceptance. Chloe and Bella, being of different colors and breeds, help us demonstrate differences in appearance and personality, supporting lessons on emotions, problem-solving, and manners.

Having bunnies like Chloe, Bella, and our longtime companion Tommy also aids in teaching practical life skills. They help children understand hygiene, chores, and even basic concepts in subjects like math and language. For example, using real carrots to count and subtract as the bunnies munch on them makes learning tangible and fun.

Classroom pets like our bunnies contribute to the emotional well-being of our students, providing comfort during stressful times and aiding in reducing anxieties. They offer consistency and stability, which is particularly beneficial for children facing challenges at home. The presence of these furry friends fosters a sense of community, teaching responsibility, kindness, and compassion.

Incorporating bunnies into our classroom environment enhances our educational approach and supports the Montessori philosophy of creating a holistic, hands-on learning experience. By meeting our students’ intellectual, social, physical, and emotional needs, we prepare them to step into the world as responsible and respectful citizens with a lifelong passion for learning.

What’s next at SMS?

By keeping this a key part of our learning experience, SMS holds ‘Animal Encounters – Petting zoo’ twice a year. SMS has an exciting vision to add a farm to our campus. This addition will give children living in the city a unique opportunity to be around animals, an experience they may not typically have. As many of us remember dreaming of having pets as children, this farm will bring that dream to life for our students in a manageable way that fits into their busy lives.

Building on the success of our new garden area, where children delight in growing flowers and vegetables, the farm will complement our existing outdoor learning spaces. Our students particularly enjoy planting carrots, which they love feeding our classroom bunnies and enjoying themselves during snack time.

This summer, we look forward to expanding our campus with a farm setting that will be fun and educational for all. The farm will enhance our hands-on learning experiences, teach responsibility, and connect deeply to nature. We believe this addition will further enrich the educational journey at SMS, fostering curiosity, empathy, and a love for the environment.

About the Author

Sammamish Montessori School

The Sammamish Montessori School (SMS) in Redmond, WA, was founded in 1977 by Joan Starling with just six preschoolers. Over the last 45 years, SMS has provided Montessori education to over 5,000 students. SMS has grown into one of the largest accredited Montessori schools in the Pacific Northwest for 18-months to 9-year-old children. Visit sammamishmontessori.com for more details.