A FREE 6-week classroom project
Audience: Out of the box: Grades 4-6; Tailored: Grades K-12
The Great Grow Along brings together the scientific method, biomedical research, and nutrition concepts in a fun and exciting six-week, educational program. Through an animal feeding project, using live lab rats, students witness the effect of nutrition on growth and are challenged to reflect on their own food behaviors. Students also learn the steps of the scientific method; how to set up a valid scientific experiment, collect data, and analyze the results; and how we can learn about our own bodies by studying animals.
The animal feeding project- that lasts 4 weeks- begins during the second module, after detailed instruction on animal care, the experimental procedure, and nutrition basics have been presented. The project applies the scientific method in the feeding of two rats (additional rats can be ordered). Both rats receive the same food; however, the control rat receives milk and the treatment rat receives a sugar water beverage of equal calories. A switch in beverages occurs in the fourth week of the feeding project. This project will dramatically illustrate effects of nutrition during periods of rapid growth.
PSBR provides the curriculum and caging supplies to teachers in PA, DE, and WV. We attempt to assist out-of-state requests as often as possible.
PSBR coordinates the donation of rats from a purpose-bred rodent vendor and we provide cages, water bowls, and food dishes. The project requires the use of Sprague Dawley rats that must be obtained from a credible breeding facility to ensure they are disease-free and of known parentage, age, and gender. (These albino rats have a digestive system similar to humans and will eat any food typically eaten by humans). Pet store rats are NOT appropriate for this project.
NEW: We can now offer bedding donations for 2-4 rats. A big thank you to The Andersons Lab Bedding Products for donating the bedding. This super absorbent bedding offers ammonia control with its sponge-like characteristics that capture ammonia and trap associated odors. This provides a healthier living environment for the rats, and fewer cage changes are needed.
Participants are responsible for providing food, bedding (when ordering more than 4 rats), and adopting out the rats at the end of the study.
PSBR covers the cost of mailing the caging supplies to the participating classrooms.
Classroom speakers are provided upon request. Topics include: basic animal care, how animals help us, biomedical research (including alternatives to using animals) and more.
This original curriculum was developed by the Dairy Council of the Upper Midwest.
Our current rat pick-up locations are located in the following cities:
Boyertown, PA; Danville, PA; Hershey, PA; Horsham, PA; Jenkintown, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; State College, PA; and Newark, DE. If you would like to use the project, but are not within reasonable driving distance from any of these locations, please contact Lisa Cassaro to discuss more options- firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-731-3559.
Check out our frequently asked questions about the Great Grow Along to learn more about this project.
Updated Curriculum Pilot:
We are currently in the process of piloting an updated curriculum including new information on nutrition. The new curriculum materials are rigorous enough for the high school student, but can be modified for younger student populations with little difficulties. Click here to learn more about this updated curriculum.
Indiana State Residents: The American Dairy Association of Indiana no longer sponsors this program for Indiana schools. PSBR has been asked to take over these requests. To request more information and/or to place a rat order, email Lisa Cassaro, PSBR Program Coordinator, at email@example.com or call 717-731-3559
PSBR is able to support the Great Grow Along program largely due to the generous support of Envigo, SAGE® Labs, Charles River Laboratories, The Andersons Lab Bedding, GlaxoSmithKline, Allentown Inc, and Bio-Serv.
Animals in the Classroom:
How Schools Are Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Foods (December 15, 2016): Several studies have shown impressive improvements in students’ food choices since 2012, when updated school nutrition standards began to take effect across the country. Children are selecting more nutritious meals and eating more of the healthy entrees, fruits, and vegetables they take. This rapid upturn in students’ habits raises an important question: How are schools doing it? To find answers, the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project—a collaboration between The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—surveyed nutrition directors about their practices and experiences three years into the transition to healthier school meals and snacks and captured the findings in a new report, School Meal Programs Innovate to Improve Student Nutrition.
Here's what soda does to young rats' brains (July 30, 2014): Soda is on the mind. A new small study in rats found that drinking sugary beverages may result in memory issues down the line. University of Southern California researchers looked at adult and adolescent rats, and feed them sugary beverages (meant to mimic soda) for a month. After a month, the rats completed tasks that assessed their cognitive function and memory. The adult rats had no problems, but the adolescent rats who had been drinking sugary beverages had impaired memory and trouble learning.
Below are some examples of feedback we have received from teachers who use the Great Grow Along:
Marjorie, High School Biology Teacher - Camp Hill, PA
Student engagement is exceptionally high with this project. Additionally, there is no better way to learn about the scientific method and research than by participating in it.
Mary, 4th Grade Teacher - Middletown, PA
I use this great program to introduce and use the scientific method. I do it as a whole class Science Experiment to study the parts of the Scientific Method. We keep a book with all our notes, charts, graphs, and outlines. The students enjoy handling the rats, measuring their tails, and weighing them. They also take turns feeding them and keeping them for the weekends. Students look forward to this project every year since I began doing it. The next year, one of the first things I hear is "When are we getting the rats?" I hope that I will always be able to do this project! View notes from some of her 4th graders who participated in the Great Grow Along.
Brintton, High School Animal Science Teacher - Newtown, PA
The reason I continue to use this program is because it is one of the very few opportunities that my students will ever have to see how animals are used in a controlled experiment; where the only variable is sugar water. I tell students that traditionally rats have been used for nutritional studies and think of this as a toddler being raised on soda instead of milk. We run some of the tests on the rats that I was privy to witness at one of your teacher education seminars that you ran several years ago; tests such as the startle reflex, observing behavior for a minute, cat reflex, strength test etc.
Michelle, High School Biology/Applied Science Teacher - Chambersburg, PA
I love the curriculum, and I have adapted it to a high school level.
Todd, High School Agriculture/Biology Teacher - Mechanicsburg, PA
I love this project! It is a great way to teach nutrition, English, experimental design, the scientific method, and animal welfare simultaneously. Not to forget students love the project! Authentic project based learning trains students to use multiple disciplines. Also, this trial appeals to the diverse learning styles in a classroom.
Candy, 2nd Grade Teacher - Carlisle, PA
The Great Grow Along program allowed us to still review what was taught in health, while also reviewing the scientific process we teach at the beginning of the year. We absolutely love this program, and so did the kids! In fact, that was a question I had from parents at Back to School Night this year- Are we doing the rat experiment? I certainly hope that this program has the funding to continue for years to come. It was truly a fun hands-on learning experience for our students. We plan to use it again in the spring.
Donna & Alicia, 3rd Grade Teachers - Souderton, PA
The nutritional aspect was really a home run; some students were even changing their diets at home and in their school lunches! Parents gave positive feedback to teachers about the changes at home too. The kids just loved it and got so excited when we told them, "Your rats are on their way!"
Deana, 5th Grade Teacher - Defiance, PA
My students and I love doing The Great Grow Along, as many students lack knowledge about proper nutrition. I always have no trouble having student volunteers take the rats after we are finished. I see this program as a way to get students and parents working together and with the school.
Bonnie, 7th Grade Life Science Teacher - Pittsburgh, PA
This is a great opportunity for my students to work with these animals and apply the knowledge to their own nutritional backgrounds.