Learning 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 monetary investment, 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.
Here are some curriculum ideas for homeschooling families or the traditional classroom:
- Have students calculate things such as the cost per feeding, the amount of time bags of bedding, boxes of food, boxes of treats will last, etc. Have them measure the amount used each day and then figure an estimate of how long supplies last.
- Have them budget a certain amount of money for each month. Have students keep track of how much money has been used and how much more is needed. Have them think of ways to raise money for supplies and equipment, and then have them keep track of what is raised.
- Use the hamsters to estimate populations if hamsters have x number of pups per female per month or 6 weeks. Have them do population projections based on different factors: number of pups, number of litters per year, different survival rates, etc.
- Have students use different colour variations and figure the probability of certain colour combinations, etc. Introduce variables into the equations, such as colour, fur type, fur length, etc.
- You can also use math to calculate the amount of profit realized if you sell the offspring and determine if it is profitable enough to do over and over. Discuss how chain pet stores and smaller pet stores must compensate in order to turn a profit. If you can make a profit, this might be used for classroom supplies or a class party.
Hamsters can become a lively part of any curriculum. Having students care for the pets can also teach things such as responsibility and compassion. If 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).