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Pets in the Classroom Announces Teacher Grant Winners of 7th Annual Lesson Plan Contest

By Pet Age Staff//October 19, 2023//

Pets in the Classroom Announces Teacher Grant Winners of 7th Annual Lesson Plan Contest

By: Pet Age Staff//October 19, 2023//

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Press release: The Pet Care Trust

The Pets in the Classroom grant program recently announced the winners of its 7th Annual Lesson Plan Contest.

The contest invited pre-kindergarten through 9th grade teachers to submit lesson plans that centered on the use of fish, reptiles and small animals in the classroom.

Teachers could submit lesson plans in the following categories: Small Animals/Birds (One each for PreK-2, 3-5, 6-9), Reptile/Amphibian (One each for PreK-2, 3-5, 6-9), Aquarium/Fish (One each for PreK-2, 3-5, 6-9), and Dogs (One each for PreK-2, 3-5, 6-9).

The winners are:


Small Animal/Birds – Grades PreK-2:

Jenna Spain

Cardinal Elementary School

Maquoketa, Iowa

Hermit Crab STEM


Small Animal/Birds – Grades 3-5:

Erin Russell

Holly Grove Elementary

Holly Springs, North Carolina

Respecting Personal Space – The Hamster Ball Analogy


Small Animal/Birds – Grades 6-9:

Ross Ruschman

Monroe Career Technical Institute

Bartonsville, Pennsylvania

Exercise: The Key to Healthy Humans & Healthy Hamsters


Reptile/Amphibian – Grades Pre-K – 2:

Sarah Willis

Citizens of the World Charter School – East Valley

Valley Village, California

The Care, Habitat and Role in the Ecosystem of Leopard Geckos


Reptile/Amphibian – Grades 3 – 5:

Heather Reilly

Whitbourne Elementary

Whitbourne, Newfoundland

Measuring, Weighing, Charting and Graphing the Growth of a Bearded Dragon


Reptile/Amphibian – Grades 6 – 9:

Heather McCarthy

Oak Lawn Hometown Middle School

Oak Lawn, Illinois

BEANS’s BOOKS (Bearded Dragon Lesson Plan for the Library)


Aquarium/Fish – Grades PreK – 2

Hope King

Rivercrest Elementary

Bartlett, Tennessee

Exploring STEAM with our Pet Fish


Aquarium/Fish – Grades 3 – 5

Elonzo Imez

Hunter Elementary

Greensboro, North Carolina

Self-Sustaining Ecosystem – Lesson Plan and Presentation


Aquarium/Fish – Grades 6-9

Germaine Hennessy

Most Blessed Sacrament School

Toledo, Ohio

Delight in the Diversity of Others


Dogs – PreK – 2

Naomi Janssen

Smythe Elementary

Sacramento, California

Pet Study


Winners were chosen based on quality, creativity, and depth of work submitted. The entries were evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Progressive-having the ability to communicate multiple topics or one topic across different depths of knowledge
  • Interactive-having the students actively seek out and record their knowledge
  • Thorough-lesson plan is complete with stated objectives and evaluation of results
  • Challenging-the students are pushed to expand their knowledge and pets are an integral part of the classroom curriculum

The winner of each category received a $100 gift card. Their lesson plans are featured on the Pets in the Classroom website, allowing teachers to utilize and adapt lesson plans for their own use in their classroom.

Pets in the Classroom is an educational grant program that provides financial support to Pre-Kindergarten through 9th grade teachers in both private and public schools to purchase and maintain small animals in the classroom. The Dogs in the Classroom program, in partnership with Pet Partners and other leading national therapy dog organizations, strives to bring well-trained and thoroughly screened therapy animal teams to select schools in an effort to improve the health and well-being of students. The programs were established by the Pet Care Trust to provide children with an opportunity to interact with pets—an experience that can help to shape their lives for years to come.

Classroom animals are wonderful resources for teachers that, when incorporated into lesson plans, can have a profound impact. Classroom pets not only provide excitement in the classroom, but they also benefit students by teaching them responsible, long-term pet care at an early age and providing the psychological and developmental benefits associated with the human-animal bond.  Studies as well as teachers’ experiences have shown that caring for pets has a positive effect on children, improving school attendance and teaching children responsibility, as well as encouraging nurturing and building self-esteem.

Click here for more information on the Pets in the Classroom grant program or the Lesson Plan Contest.