Pets in the Classroom Grant Program Helps Students with Special Needs

Pets in the Classroom, an educational grants program supporting responsible pet care in today’s youth, has provided funding to acquire 10 aquariums for the classrooms of Green Chimneys, a nationally renowned, non-profit organization that helps children with emotional, behavioral, social and learning challenges with the aid of animals.

Sponsored by the Pet Care Trust, the goal of the Pets in the Classroom program is to establish healthy child-pet relationships at an early age by supporting responsible pet care in Pre-Kindergarten through 8th Grade classrooms across the U.S. and Canada. This goal stems from the recognition of the benefits of exposure to pets including: developing a sense of responsibility, building self-esteem, encouraging nurturing, and creating compassion. This philosophy coincides with the philosophy of Green Chimneys.

Recognized as a worldwide leader in animal-assisted therapy and activities, Green Chimneys serves children in grades K-12 with special learning and emotional needs, who are failing to thrive within a traditional family, community or school system. Founded on the belief that children can respond to animals in ways they often can’t to people, Green Chimneys integrates animal-assisted and nature-based activities into nearly every aspect of its accredited special education school and residential treatment center.

While Green Chimneys uses animals as a core component in its therapeutic program and school curriculum, pets had not yet been introduced directly into the classroom setting. Ryan Johnson, Therapeutic Intervention Specialist at Green Chimneys, spearheaded the project to bring the aquariums into the classrooms: “My mission was to create a calming and therapeutic environment for the children of Green Chimneys. In my experience with our young people, an unspoken intervention often has more of an impact on a distressed student. Fish tanks create a calming environment without use of words.”

As in their other programs, the Green Chimneys staff has seen changes in the ability of students to communicate and acquire new skills due to the responsibility for and interaction with the animals.

“This has been such a wonderful experience for the students, and staff,” said Johnson. “It’s great to see young people relax and smile in their classrooms, due to their new little friends. This amazing adventure has just begun and has provided so much enjoyment already – I am proud to be a part of it.”

For more information on the Pets in the Classroom Grant program and the benefits of using animals in the classroom, visit

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