Friday, August 16, 2013

Hamster Study

The section of the girls' animal biology portfolio inspired by hamsters (this sweet Russian dwarf hamster, in particular) has been more challenging to put together than, say, our sections on butterflies or frogs or horses. I'd assumed that since hamsters are fairly popular classroom pets there would be tons of children's material about them, but nay. There's a lot online for university students who use hamsters in science experiments (shudder), and several hobby sites, so the girls and I have done a lot of... cobbling.

For the order of classification, we always go to Wikipedia, which has each animal's complete order of classification, hyper-linked, in a sidebar at the top right of the entry. The girls and I always follow each link and discuss it all the way down--it's a terrific way, I think, to internalize the way that the order narrows down at each level so that you start, each time, with a group that includes every animal in the world and end, each time, with a group that includes only your exact one animal (unless you're interested in breeds, of course, which we discuss more with cats and chickens).

The realistic drawing of each animal is easy, too, since the girls' portfolio only includes animals that they have direct physical access to and have cared for at some point this summer:
feeding China a pea pod to lure her over

On a drawing-related tangent: We've got everything we need (thanks to a friend who regularly stalks our public library's book-sale space and scored me a copy of the book!) to start Drawing With Children! Perhaps next week?

For each girl's report on the hamster, I gave them access to the following resources:

In addition, the kids really liked these fun books as pleasure reading:

Since we didn't have China long enough to create a maze or toys for her (via my poor, dis-used hamster pinboard!), the girls' creative project for the hamster will probably be either a book report of one of these fiction books or a story of their own.

For anatomy, I combined the hamster anatomy printable from Enchanted Learning with a far better hamster drawing found on Google Images--the girls colored the better drawing, then copied the labels from the Enchanted Learning printable, then identified those parts on their real hamster. None of the anatomy is obtuse, and there's nothing to memorize (unlike with horses--geez!), but the girls had a lot of fun and said a lot of things like, "Awww, look at her teeny wittle earies!"

We didn't watch any hamster birthing videos (oh, those horse foaling videos!), and the hamster life cycle business, in general, is less involved than the creatures we studied who undergo metamorphosis, so for their hamster life cycle study, I printed all the photos of a baby hamster's day-to-day development from this hamster forum, then asked the girls to paste them to a poster and label them--it will take some creative folding to get that into their portfolios!

The girls SUPER want a hamster of their own, now, but I don't know--a hamster's lifespan is so short, and I really don't want to deal with a dead hamster two years from now.

But our animal shelter does often have pet rats... I wonder how long they live?


pam said...

Humm. Christmas present????

melanie said...

I got to adopt one of my 6th grade classroom's albino rats. I am 99% sure the average lifespan of a rat is about 3 years...

julie said...

Yeah, I think we'll stick with chickens.

Tina said...

I was going to recommend a graphic novel series about a hamster detective, but it turns out the detective is actually a guinea pig but the first book in the series has a hamster in it. Guinea Pig Pet Shop Private Eye: Hamster and Cheese. Might be a good series for Syd.

julie said...

Hamster and Cheese looks familiar, but I went ahead and requested all five of those for the girls, anyway, because I'm pretty sure they haven't read the sequels. They're going to like those, I bet--Will, especially, LOVES animal books