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 state:

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:

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.

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.