Critter Camp

During the school year, classrooms around the metro foster many of the ARL's small animals. Students learn the importance of caring for animals like guinea pigs, rabbits and hamsters, and help promote that they are available for adoption.

Critter Camp Teacher's Guide

Thank you for taking the time to incorporate the Animal Rescue League of Iowa’s Critter Camp program into your school year. Fostering our homeless animals and promoting their adoptions inspires compassion and teaches future animal-loving generations how to be responsible pet owners.

Getting Started Checklist

  • Fill out the Critter Camp Registration Form located below.
  • Use the Critter Camp Lesson Plan provided to educate your students about their future classroom pet. Note: We ask that you do the lesson with students before the ARL brings the animals to the classroom.  
  • Based off the dates and times requested in your registration form, Humane Education Coordinator, Tracey Dolphin Drees, will contact you to set up a time for your students to present what they have learned about pet care. Tracey will talk to students about how fostering plays such a crucial role in our organization and she will bring the pet on the same day as the presentation.
  • The ARL must have parental permission to use any photos of children. If your students’ parents are comfortable with us using photos of them to promote Critter Camp in the future, please send home the photo release form provided.

Materials and Supplies

The ARL is largest shelter in the state of Iowa, caring for many thousands of pets each year! Without federal, state, or United Way funding, community support is the only way that caring for such a large number of animals is possible. Intial supplies, including the cage, will be provided. Generally, classrooms take on the responsibility of food and enrichment items for the animal after the intial supplies the ARL provides are used up. We are more than willing to provide you with supplies for your pet, but we are at the mercy of what is donated to us. We encourage you to check out the ARL’s Critter Camp Pinterest Board to find cost effective and creative toy ideas for your students to make at home. We also encourage teachers to make a Critter Camp Wish List for parents to get involved by making donations to the classroom pet.

Your Job

  • Name your new friend!
  • Care for your foster pet
  • Socialize – Get them used to being around people
  • Promote adoption
    • Blog - Share stories, videos and DIYs online for people who might want to adopt
    • Make posters to hang throughout the community telling people how awesome your foster pet is!

Commonly Asked Questions

Q: What should I do with my foster over the weekend and during breaks?
A: Typically our Critter Camp classroom teachers will leave enough food and water for the animal over the weekend and make arrangements for someone to check on it. Over breaks, our teachers normally take the pet home. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of bringing the animal to your home, please contact William Wallace,, to make arrangements.

Q: Are there rules or guidelines to handling the animal?
A: Handling the animal varies depending on what kind of animal you are given and the age of your students. We will provide care guides for each pet and trust the teacher to use their best judgment. If you have questions about handling and socializing, we are more than happy to answer them!


William Wallace
Small Animals and Exotics Coordinator
Phone: (515) 473-9134

Tracey Dolphin Drees
Humane Education Coordinator
Phone: (515) 473-9128

Critter Camp Registration Form

Address 1
Address 2
City, State, Zip
Name of Contact Person
Confirm Email
Number of students in class
Who will be the primary caregiver?
Do all humans in your classroom fully support fostering?
What type of fostering situation are you interested in? (Please check all that apply.)
Have you approved Critter Camp with your supervisor?
Do you currently have any pets in the classroom? If yes, please list.
For what period of time will the pet be left alone?
Who will care for the pet over weekends and extended breaks?
What is your experience with medical or behavior issues in animals?
Please provide details of your training experience.
Are there any animals that are NOT allowed at your school?
Please provide 3 dates/times Tuesday-Friday that would work for us to come talk to your class and set up your new pet. The presentation normally takes about 30 minutes and we would like a week's notice, if possible.
Instructions for parking and entering the building:

Please check yes or no to give the ARL permission to use photos of your students to promote Critter Camp.Yes