I've had quite a few teachers ask me if I think hedgehogs make good classroom pets. And, I can say with confidence, they certainly can as long as precautions are taken to ensure that appropriate care and attention are given to the hedgehog. I firmly believe that learning to interact with animals is an important way to help children learn to respect others and to respect themselves.
I think hedgehogs are particularly well suited to this role because there are so many ways that children can relate to hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are very cute, and an inquisitive, friendly hedgehog is virtually irresistible! Even a shy hedgehog can teach children lessons, though. All kids know what it is to wish you could roll up into a ball and keep the world from bothering you. Learning to speak gently, move slowly, and earn the trust of a shy hedgehog is a process that teaches children volumes about interacting with people. Hedgehogs are also useful for teaching about science. Environmental studies, food chains, geography, literature (there's lots of children's books about hedgehogs!), art... you name it! One industrious teacher has a wonderful website that tells about her class' experiences with their classroom hedgehog. This site will even take you around the world as the teacher sends a stuffed hedgehog toy to another teacher, who used it in her lesson plans, and then on to another, and so on. The possibilities are endless, as this teacher's ingenuity shows!
A hedgehog is not for all classrooms, though. If it is simply put in a cage and left in the corner, it won't be happy and the kids won't get involved with it. If they see that the teacher is enthusiastic about the hedgie, the kids will catch the enthusiasm. If they see the teacher doesn't appear to care, well, at least one hedgehog has been rescued from a group of kids who decided to use it as a croquet ball during a teacher's brief absence from the room. This is NOT what we want to see happen! Personally, I would recommend that the teacher
personally accept responsibility for the hedgehog as the teacher's own pet, at least taking it home on weekends and holidays, if not at the end of the day. If students are allowed to take the hedgehog home, make sure that the parents are willing and cooperative, and that they fully understand the care requirements. The last thing you want is to lose your hedgehog because the parents made the child keep it in the unheated garage over winter vacation. And, of course, the teacher should make sure to research care requirements (a care sheet listing what I consider the bare basics of hedgehog care can be found here).
As a final consideration, teach the children to wash their hands or use antibacterial gel before and after handling the hedgehog. Chances are the hedgehog isn't harboring any dread disease, and neither are the children, but it never hurts to exercise caution, and to establish what will hopefully be a lifelong good habit!