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Is there a role for pet fish in the primary classroom?

By Rebecca Lewis, Essi Karvonen, Nancy Gee, Donna Snellgrove, Paula Cowan, Katherine Sloman

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There is growing evidence within the Human-Animal Interaction literature that activities involving contact with live animals can be of considerable benefit to children. Suggested advantages of activities which involve animal interaction include increased empathy and social interactions (Daly and Suggs, 2010), increased responsibility (Rud and Beck, 2003) and reduced anxiety (Hansen et al., 1999). Fish are the most popular companion animal held in the primary school classroom, yet to our knowledge there is no quantitative evidence of pedagogical value for animal-assisted activities with fish.

This study investigates the presence of live tropical fish on pupils' learning. Groups of four to six children from p1-3 classes, from three schools were randomly assigned to one of four treatments consisting of a weekly 20 minute activity, carried out under different conditions. Groups rotated through the different settings over a four week period. All session were video recorded with a video camera with a microphone placed discreetly in the room so that pupils were not disturbed by its presence.

Information taken from the video recordings include pupils' emotional choices, pet preferences, information retention and the latency to answer questions. Quantitative observation of other behaviours will also be carried out including frequency of positive and negative behaviours. Analysis of the video footage will take place in June-August 2017. This paper will present the initial findings of this study.


Christopher C Charles

Purdue University

Date November 2017
Conference Title Scottish Educational Research Association Annual Conference : Educational Futures in a Changing Landscape: Bridging Boundaries or "Mind the Gap"?
URL https://research-portal.uws.ac.uk/en/publications/is-there-a-role-for-pet-fish-in-the-primary-classroom
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Fish
  3. Schools