Oh Rats…


Jami Martin-Trainor

Rat number five named Anna playing with the toys provided by the AP Psychology classroom.

Click. Click. Click.

Good job.

Click. Click. Click.

Here’s a treat.

That’s how class time is used in the AP Psychology classroom. Students are learning about learning with first-hand experimentation with the help of a few furry friends. The classroom houses eight rats, all of which are for training via treats, clickers, and taps.

The classroom rats were bought with money that Dana Melone, AP Psychology instructor, won after applying for a grant.

“About three years ago I put in an application for Kennedy High School to be considered for the Golden Psi award. This award application took hours of time and it was worth it, because Kennedy High School won, and became the first high school to ever win the award,” Melone said.

The hand-on training that students are doing with the rats allows for deeper understandings to form about operant condition. The knowledge that students gain from seeing the learning process can be applied to the AP exam, hopefully boosting students scores.

“We are doing [the lab] in class to incorporate the material of AP Psych into a hands-on experience, and by doing so we can understand the material more thoroughly,” Fuchs said.

For the most part, student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and the lab is scheduled to be repeated in the following years.

“I personally love the lab,” Fuchs said. “I feel it helps us understand the material better by making it applicable,”.

When restarting the experiment in the following years, new rats may be purchased in order to retain the experiment’s integrity. At the end of the school year, the rats will be given away to students to take care of as a pet at home.

“If we fund for new rats next year then I will do a drawing from the parents and students will be offered to take them,” Melone said.

The experiment also gives students a new way to view learning. Classroom time is not just spent reading a book or taking notes, but actually making a visible different in the rat’s intelligence and skills.

“AP Psych is different from a typical class because it’s not just reading and taking notes, but instead hands on activities. I feel I learn the material better within the class because of the way the class is set up,” Fuchs said.