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Assembly point - Don't get caught on the hop

School pets teach children how to care for others. But what happens over the holidays? Show how crucial that care is with an assembly

School pets teach children how to care for others. But what happens over the holidays? Show how crucial that care is with an assembly

Summer holiday beckons - sun, sea and escape from lessons. But spare a thought for the classroom pet. What happens to them during the long break?

Animals can be an important part of children's lives and a way for them to learn to care for others. If your school has class pets, now is a good time to have an assembly to raise awareness of how to care for them.

A classroom pet can be anything from a stick insect to a python, so it's important to consider the environment these animals may need. Think about how you have introduced the care of these animals in other areas of the curriculum and build on that. If your school has a rabbit, for example, talk about how you have provided food, exercise and stimulation for it during term-time, and how important it will be for pupils to keep this up if they're caring for the animal over the summer.

Rabbits are intelligent animals, and they need stimulation as well as food and water. When rabbits are bored, they display feelings of anger and fear, says the House Rabbit Society. They are often seen as a low- maintenance pet, so this is often not given proper consideration. The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund went further with its Make Mine Chocolate! campaign at Easter, urging people to buy chocolate rabbits instead of real ones.

This sentiment is just as relevant as pupils prepare for the summer holiday. Start an assembly with facts about rabbits, introducing them as if they are human. Explain that they are warm and affectionate when treated well but if we fail to give them attention they can become jealous or angry. This is just like a best friend - but a little smaller. The downside is that they won't speak when you make them sad.

Ask the pupils if they can guess who this may be. The answer is "a rabbit", but may as well be someone they know already. Explain that rabbits, like humans, need exercise and stimulation to remain healthy. If not, they become ill and die. With the suitable care, domestic rabbits can live eight to 12 years or longer.

Here, pupils may come up with ideas about how to keep the rabbit fit and happy. You could build a rabbit steeplechase, or if you have a field, create a bigger space for the rabbit with fences around it.

Different groups of pupils and teachers could take it in turns to look after him or her. You will need to "bunny-proof" the classroom so the rabbit has at least three hours a day out of its cage.

Make pupils understand that, although rabbits are soft to touch, they can still feel sad on the inside. To finish, ask pupils to write a short story about a rabbit and make a drawing showing its individual personality and special preferences. They should also include the daily tasks needed.

Perhaps pupils will decide to get a full-time pet based on their classroom experiences, so use these displays to remind them that animals need constant care

House Rabbit Society: www.rabbit.org

Make Mine Chocolate! campaign: www.makeminechocolate.co.uk.

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