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FOSS/Delta Policy Statement on Living Organisms
in the Classroom
The FOSS Program endorses the National Science Teachers Association
Guidelines for Responsible Use of Animals in the Classroom as
they apply to elementary and middle school classrooms. Those guidelines
- Observation and experimentation with living organisms give
students unique perspectives of life processes that are not
provided by other modes of instruction.
- Studying animals in the classroom enables students to develop
skills of observation and comparison, a sense of stewardship,
and an appreciation for the unity, interrelationships, and complexity
of life. This study, however, requires appropriate, humane care
of the organisms. Teachers are expected to be knowledgeable
about the proper care of organisms under study and the safety
of their students.
- Acquisition and care of animals must be appropriate to the
- Student classwork and science projects involving animals must
be under the supervision of a trained professional.
- Teachers will adhere to local, state, and national laws, policies,
and regulations regarding the organisms, including acquisition,
care, and disposition.
- Teachers must instruct students on safety precautions for
handling live animals.
- Plans for the future care and disposition of animals at the
conclusion of the study must be developed and implemented.
To that end, the FOSS program, through Delta Education, provides
detailed information on how to obtain organisms, how to prepare
for their arrival, how to care for them in the classroom, and
how to instruct students to properly handle each animal. The animals
in the modules were selected because they are abundant, safe for
students, easy to care for, and are hardy and survive well in
classroom environments. FOSS selected organisms that were non-exotic,
commonly available from local and regional suppliers, and, in
some cases, found in the natural environments in many regions
of the country. When investigations are carried out as described
in the FOSS teacher guide, the insects, worms, crustaceans, snails,
and fish are not harmed in any way.
The teacher guide describes humane and ethical options for the
disposition of the organisms at the end of the module:
- The organisms find a permanent home in the classroom. This
is the ideal way to continue the study.
- The organisms are passed on to the next teacher using the
- Some students take the animals home (parental permission is
required ahead of time).
- The district may transfer the living organisms for study at
another school. Living materials distribution centers are an
ideal way to continue the care of organisms.
- Organisms are returned to the environment from which they
were collected (if appropriate).
FOSS does not advocate the release of organisms (plant or animal)
into the environment if they were not collected from that environment.
In some states, it is illegal to release organisms, even those
indigenous to the area, without a permit. The intention of these
laws is to protect native wildlife and the environment. Animals
that were collected in a different locality, or were raised in
the laboratory, might not survive if released, and more importantly,
they often introduce new factors into the environment that are
harmful to existing species. You and your students can check with
the local fish and game experts and find out the regulations specific
to your area.
The one FOSS organism that needs a special mention is the garden
snail, Helix aspersa. The options for the disposition of
this land snail are different. This organism is currently restricted
and it is necessary for teachers to obtain a permit from the USDA
(United States Department of Agriculture) to allow a supplier
to ship them across state lines for classroom study and to maintain
them in the classroom if they come from out-of-state. One condition
of the permit is that the snails are not released into the local
environment. To release them is a violation of USDA regulations,
and a federal offense. Be sure to read the specific information
on land snails, GETTING A USDA
PERMIT FOR LAND SNAILS, for more specific information on the
The most ethical and humane way to dispose of snails or other
invertebrates if they can no longer be cared for by one of the
options outlined above is to freeze them. This is a last resort,
and only recommended if there is no possibility for maintaining
Depending on the age and maturity of the students, teachers
can deal with these legal and environmental issues as a class
project and involve the students in contacting the fish and game
to get the facts on the local regulations. If the students are
too young to take on this responsibility, then the teacher should
make the appropriate decision on behalf of the students.
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