Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rats 102 - First Things First

Talk about rats and each time, without fail,
Somebody somewhere will mention the tail.
"It's so gross and disgusting," they all seem to say,
But let's try to see it a different way.

Their tail is so awesome, to do what it does,
Keeping their balance on wires up above.
It's brilliant and amazing, that long skinny tail,
It steadies them steady on the narrowest trail.

To see it in action is a fabulous sight,
with expert precision it shifts left and shifts right.
Just crossing a rope can be quite a big challenge,
But thanks to the tail, the rat keeps his balance.

Its a matter of needs and its needs are quite plain,
If it falls from above it will feel all sorts of pain.
Its comes down to a science called Rotational Inertia,
So stop worrying about it. The tail ain't gonna hurt ya.

"But, Liam, just look! It just isn't fair!
Why does that tail have to look naked and bare?"
A very good question and thanks for being so patient,
It's the simple little science of Thermoregulation.

When the rats getting too warm, the tail cools it down,
It helps it stay cozy the whole year round.
Blood vessels expand when it's getting too hot
That's Vasodilation. Is that cool or what?!

Vasoconstriction is the opposite way.
The tail keeps the heat from escaping away.
Blood vessels get smaller and trap in the heat.
It's a clever little trick that just can't be beat.

So next time someone tells you how gross their tails are,
You're armed with the knowledge to be a rat-star,
to stand on your soapbox and passionately wail,

~ Liam

To finish, here's a thought. As teachers, we urge our students to look beyond the flesh and to see others for who they really are...


  1. WOW, Liam:
    That's a wonderful invitation to look at things differently.

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  2. An interesting Rhyme though you haven't addressed,
    my issue at school and I'm being a pest.
    But this is not about who is wrong and who right,
    The fact of the matter is, how do we win the fight.


  3. Dear Don, let me say that I know what you mean,
    opposition is rampant and, frankly, obscene.
    Its not fair but to change the view of a nation,
    It all starts with a little re-education.

    We've seen them as villains, and plague-carrying pests,
    They're the farthest thing from a welcome houseguest.
    But if we just spread the word and stand up en masse,
    We may convince our employers that they're great for a class.

    Thanks for your awesome comment, Don.

    Ⓣwist ⓞf Ⓛiam

  4. Sorry, but I'm not even going to try to rhyme this. ;-)

    Thanks for the info, Liam. I had rats in my classroom last year and plan on having them again in the fall (until I'm officially told to get rid of them). I always agree, "Their tails are icky"--but now I can explain to the students why they look that way. And I'll keep my personal opinion to myself!

    (Can I ask, how do you pronounce your name?)

    1. Glad to hear from someone who has already has them in their classroom! The educational value of a class pet is not limited to teaching responsibility but there is a lot to be said about how it teaches students (and teachers...) that animals have some amazing adaptations to survive.

      Students love to know "Why" and "How" so sharing that info with them would be a great experience for them.

      Ⓣwist ⓞf Ⓛiam

    2. I agree! We also have a red rat snake as an "educational animal"--as opposed to a "pet." The idea is that wild animals should not be considered to be held captive as pets. (She was captive-bred.) All of my students get comfortable enough to touch the snake and the rats (altho some don't want to touch the rats' tails!). BTW, we NEVER get the snake out after getting the rats out; I don't want a rat-scented kid to get bitten by a confused snake!

  5. Clearly a Camp A-er! Awesome!! I agree with your sentiments regarding wild animals as captured pets - there are simply too many reasons to risk it.

    Having both a rat snake and a rat in the same class seems a bit risky, and I wouldn't recommend it to inexperienced teachers, but it sounds like you've got it all sorted.

    How do the firsties handle a rat and a snake that eats rats?

    Ⓣwist ⓞf Ⓛiam

  6. Believe it or not, they ALL had no objection to watching Rosie (snake) eat "pinkies," probably because they are frozen when they first see them. They see the pinkies get warmed up in a cup of warm water and some remark then that they can tell it is a baby rat after all. I ALWAYS give the option of leaving the circle at any time during the feeding and they all stay to watch, every time. They are amazed that Rosie can swallow something so big. It helps them understand how a food chain works as well as a respect for all kinds of animals. :-)


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