Chubz and Cheekz were an instant hit! Their friendly, gentle natures (not to mention cute little faces and soft fur) made them the perfect classroom pets.
Our class was participating in the Great Grow-Along, developed by the Dairy Council of the Midwest. With the arrival of two female albino rats from the same litter, my students became animal caretakers and scientists studying the benefits of drinking milk. They loved it!
To begin the experiment, each student generated a scientific question and a hypothesis. Then we followed this procedure:
Week 1 - Introducing Grains
Both rats eat oatmeal. The control rat drinks whole milk, and the treatment rat drinks sugar water (with the same caloric value as the milk).
Week 2 - Introducing Fruits and Vegetables
Both rats eat oatmeal, fruit, and vegetables. The control rat drinks whole milk, and the treatment rat drinks sugar water.
Week 3 - Introducing Meats
Both rats eat oatmeal, fruit, vegetables, and meat. The control rat drinks whole milk, and the treatment rat drinks sugar water.
Week 4 - The Big Switch
Both rats eat oatmeal, fruit, vegetables, and meat. The control rat switches to sugar water, and the treatment rat drinks whole milk.
Over the course of the experiment, we studied nutrients and My Plate. Students wrote descriptive (Images of Our Rat), narrative (A Story About a Rat), persuasive (Can I Have a Rat?), and Informative (Facts About Rats) pieces. We discussed controls (litter mates, same diet, same cage, same bedding, etc.) and variable (milk versus sugar water). Students used balance scales to mass the rats and rulers to measure their tails. They completed tables and graphs. Educational opportunities were limitless!
As you can see from the tables and graphs below, the results clearly showed that drinking milk helps rats grow. (If you ignore the tail data, which was skewed by wiggling rats...)
If you're up for an educational adventure, check into the Great Grow-Along! Contact your county extension office or local branch of the American Dairy Association for information.
Note: I do not recommend trying this activity with rats from a pet shop. For safety reasons, only use rats bred in a sterile laboratory setting.