Employing living animals in educational settings is popular and may assist learning. Human-animal relationships are considered fundamental for the effects of animal-assisted interventions (AAI) on successful learning. Key studies on AAI emphasize dogs, or other large-brained vertebrates, while AAI with non-vertebrate species is a yet rather unexplored field. However, bringing non-vertebrate species to school has ethical and practical advantages. In an exploratory study, we tested whether seven-years-old children would form caregiving relationships with a Giant African land snail (Achatina fulica). Prior to the survey, the snail had been kept inside a terrarium in the classroom for seven months. We employed a questionnaire for measuring children's pet attachment to assess the children's relationships with the snail. The observed relationship scores with the snail were intermediate to high and did not differ from same-aged children's attachment scores with their dogs, cats, and rabbits. No differences due to gender were observed. Children potentially developed caregiving attitudes and empathy towards the snail, and thus, the presented results indicate potential benefits from employing a non-vertebrate species in educational settings, as well as for animal-assisted therapy. The specific features of A. fulica are discussed in the frame of human-animal interactions, learning, and anthropomorphism.
|Publication Title||Animals (Basel)|
|Author Address||Department of Science Education, University College for Education of Upper Austria, 4020 Linz, Austria.|
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