Creating a Class Pet: “Leo on the Shelf”

“We have Leo the Hedgehog here (a stuffed animal) and Leo the Hedgehog spends the whole day with us. (I tell my class he’s) looking for ‘Respect’ and the kids are now looking for it themselves. And they love it.” – Diana Rivera, Kindergarten teacher


Diana Rivera, a Kindergarten teacher in Elizabeth, NJ, took the idea of a classroom ‘friend’ or pet to an exciting new level. For Peekapak’s unit on Respect, Ms. Rivera purchased a stuffed hedgehog to embody Peekapak’s Leo the Hedgehog character. Like the idea of “Elf on the Shelf”, She put “Leo the Hedgehog” on a tall shelf, overlooking her classroom and she let her students know that Leo was watching for demonstrations of respect. This idea will be carried onto other Peekapak units throughout the school year, such as teamwork, perseverance, gratitude and empathy.

Watch this video to see how Ms. Rivera created a “Leo on the Shelf” in her classroom and the enthusiasm, delight and learning this experience brought her students:

Want to bring Leo to your classroom? Here are some tips from Ms. Rivera on creating your very own “Leo on the Shelf”:

  • Ms. Rivera purchased this hedgehog stuffed animal from Toys R Us. Click here to be notified once we have a custom Peekapak Leo the Hedgehog stuffed animal for purchase.
  • Ms. Rivera told her class that Leo the Hedgehog would be watching them throughout the day and collecting observations of when students have demonstrated respect (or whatever the Peekapak topic of the month). She secretly writes observations on a piece of paper and places them into the jar.
  • At end of the day, the class pulls out these observations from the jar and reads them together. They discuss whether or not they feel the observation reflects the Peekapak topic.
  • For every observation that the class agrees demonstrates respect, the class receives a point. Once the class accumulates a set number of points, they receive a class prize.

For more information or help getting set up, please email us at

Link to empathy! Having a new classroom ‘friend’ is also a great way for students to demonstrate empathy by considering how their classroom friend feels and thinking about how to take care of them. The classroom friend can be a stuffed animal, doll, statue, or even a plant.

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Ami Shah is a Co-Founder & CEO of Peekapak, an edtech startup that teaches social-emotional learning skills like self-regulation, empathy and team work in the class and home. Peekapak is backed by; Silicon Valley based accelerator, Imagine K12, the Edtech vertical of Y Combinator and; the Unreasonable Institute.