Hands-on Veterinary Rat Growth Project

Posted on Categories Project-based Learning

At a Glance

The small animal/veterinary program at W. B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences uses rats to engage students and to teach the scientific method, lab procedures, and data calculations.


The W. B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences is a magnet high school in Philadelphia that serves grades 9 through 12. In order to provide a contextual and hands-on learning experience, all senior students in the small animal/veterinary program participate in a six-week project involving rats. The project requires students to use the scientific method while developing an experiment that observes food consumption and weight gain of the rats. Students are responsible for maintaining a detailed lab journal, charts, and other observations. They are also accountable for properly caring for the rats. By the end of the six weeks, the project has reinforced a number of skills that include data and statistics, algebra, science, and laboratory procedures.

Origin / Implementation

This program was started over 10 years ago with the goal of enhancing students’ critical thinking skills while observing animal eating habits and weight gain in a lab setting. Enrollment consistently increased during this period, and, for the last few years, the program has been at maximum capacity of 24 students.

Results / Impact

Instructors find that students involved with maintaining the health and data collection of the rats are more

motivated to complete the charts and perform the measurements. Additionally, because students become attached to the rats, they are engaged and enjoy the learning experience. Program instructors also report that 99 percent of the students in the small animal/veterinary program are accepted into two and four year postsecondary programs. Of these students, 20 percent go on to study veterinary science.


School District of Philadelphia – W.B. Saul Agriculture High School

Tammy Conaway, Principal
Email: tconaway@philasd.org

Tiffany Turrentine, Instructor
Email: tturrent@gmail.com

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