WAKARUSA — Over the past few weeks, Ann Sauceda’s students at Wakarusa Elementary happily welcomed two additional classmates. Like many typical fifth-graders, the little ladies were lively, playful, and vibrant. But there were a few distinguishing characteristics, such as the fact that they spent most of their time in a cage, they were covered in snow white fluff and they scurried about on four legs.
The newcomers were a pair of white rats, who joined the students as part of a learning adventure that has become something of an annual tradition for the fifth grade. While all of the teachers have participated in this similar course session on some level over the years, Sauceda’s participation has carried on the longest, over the duration of 16 years. The project ties in with an extended study of nutrition and its various elements, such as stressing the importance of particular food components and productive eating habits, and how everything humans consume impacts one’s health.
The children are given a fair measure of responsibility in taking care of the critters, giving them names and interacting with them daily. They also offer different types of food and drink to each rat, taking measurements and recording data as to how they develop and the way their growth patterns change.
The duo became known as Paris and Sadie, and they enlightened and entertained Sauceda’s students for approximately six weeks. The scholars were very eager to share details about the lessons they witnessed in the rats as the weeks passed. Ella Ramer said, “We wanted to see how they would grow when we would feed them different things,” while Alea Minnich noted that Sadie was generally given sugar water, while Paris drank milk. The result was that Paris grew a little larger, forming greater muscle mass and stronger bones.