Raising an Animal

Randyll Warehime
1991 Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute


  • To observe reproduction and behavior in several types of animals.
  • To nurture a sense of responsibility and cooperation in the student.
  • To observe external features of several different types of animals groups.
  • To develop an empathy for living things.


In ecology, we study about food webs and how the human species fits into the grand picture. Unfortunately, too many times animals are simply mentioned but never seen by too many of our students, especially those in the city.

I usually start this unit during ecology so that ecological relationships can be centered around their own animals. I like to do this activity before we start a unit on reproduction and development, so that while we are on the topic the students have real experiences and observations they can share. This project can run for any length of time you find appropriate. I usually keep the "zoo" for about one quarter. Since space is a limiting factor in my room, students work in groups; 30 animals is much more manageable than 100!

You have to determine if anyone is allergic to any of the animals that may be brought in. Also, you have to make sure the animals are being treated humanely and have adequate food, water and space. Despite the mess, smell at times, and the natural hesitancy to have a zoo in your room, my students really enjoy this, maybe because they are urban kids. Many have never had a pet and most have not really seen a lot of these animals close up. When a birth occurs it's a major event. Some groups, despite heroic efforts, will not get any reproduction to take place. These students will still get a lot out of the project; maybe more than the others because they become so concerned.


  • Materials needed vary with the type of animals that are raised and may include cages, tanks, water bottles, various foods, resource books on various animals (from a pet shop), etc.

Procedure for students:

Basically...raise a male and female pair of animals for about eight weeks.
  1. As a group, choose the species of animal you want to raise. Some suggestions: mice, guinea pig, finches, fruit flies, fighting fish, guppies, other aquarium fish that will breed, butterfly/moth caterpillars, mealworms, grasshoppers, crickets, snails, slugs, crayfish, lizards, cockroaches, frog/toad tadpoles. You have to investigate what is available in your area. The students need to understand that the idea is to observe reproduction or at the least development.
  2. As a group, decide who will bring in the materials and what is needed from the teacher in terms of cages, tanks, etc.
  3. Assign duties for each person, making a schedule that involves everyone. Determine how each student will be evaluated/graded in their group. Determine what will be done with the animals at the end of the observation period (often pet shops will take back the animals).
  4. Turn in a report that includes the above information.
  5. Once animals are brought in, observations begin. Each group should keep a journal or manila folder of what they observe and any data that is taken such as weight, size, etc.
  6. A mid-term report is made, written and/or oral. Problems that groups are having can be brought up for class problem-solving. Students should evaluate each other on effort.
  7. A final report is made with as much information from references and observations as desired.
  8. Clean up big time.


Growth (size, weight, etc.) can be graphed. Birth rate can be calculated. A brochure or report can be developed about the animal species. A weekly newsletter can be compiled by the class(es).


Safety requirements vary with the type of animals used. Caution has to be exercised with animals that may bite.


Thanks to Carol Fujita, one of my mentors, for the basis of this activity.

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