Teaching Language Arts with Hamsters

Hamsters are an ideal pet for teaching and learning about a variety of subjects.  They are suited for both the traditional classroom and for the homeschooling family.  Because of their small size, clean habits, quiet natures and minimal care needs, they are perfect for almost any educational situation.

First you must choose what type of hamster you want to have.  Syrian hamsters (also known as golden or teddy bear hamsters) must be kept alone in a housing unit.  If you want to keep more than one, you must have more than one cage or aquarium.  This can cause issues with space and cost, especially in a traditional classroom.

Dwarf hamsters can be housed together if they have been raised together or are properly introduced to each other slowly.  Keep in mind that having a male/female pair will cause a population explosion.  It is best to have same-sex hamster groups for the classroom unless you are specifically breeding the hamsters for a project.

If you have a traditional classroom, make sure you obtain permission before purchasing and bringing your hamsters into the classroom. It is always best to have permission in writing beforehand. Keeping the written permission available at all times is a good idea, as well, in case there is any question about the class pets.

Here are some curriculum ideas for homeschooling families or the traditional classroom:

  • Hamsters can be wonderful inspiration for a variety of language arts activities, both oral and written.  You can also use group or team activities to encourage some of the shier students to participate.  Small groups can be responsible for documenting activities and reporting to the class.
  • Have the children write short stories, plays, or even non-fiction assignments about the class hamsters.  They can write a narrative or simply do poetry, haiku, or other creative writing.
  • Encourage students to keep a journal detailing the hamsters’ activities.  They can describe feeding habits, activity levels and types of activities.  They can keep a daily or weekly journal.  Homeschooling families can keep a journal that even covers more than one year, including summer projects.  Breeding your hamsters will provide even more topics for reports, journals, etc.
  • Students can do oral reports complete with posters and charts, if they like.  The hamster can also be the topic of an impromptu short speech (one minute or less).

Hamsters can add a lively subject to any curriculum.  Having students care for the pets can also teach things such as responsibility and compassion.  In a traditional classroom, you can have students take turns caring for the hamster (feeding, cleaning the cage, etc.) and also take the hamster home over long holidays (but only with the parent’s permission – having parents sign a permission slip is the best method for this).  Hamsters can also tie several subjects together in the lower grades.  Math can be intertwined with science, etc.  It can make for the great incorporation of a curriculum.