Mammal Maze

Animal Intelligence, Learning, Memory and Behavior

Biology Quarter 3 Project                                                                                     Due Date: 3/10/2013



  We are currently studying the evolution of animals including mammals in Biology. We will also be studying animal behavior and learning. This project consists of three parts: 

I    Students will design and build a mouse maze.

II   Students will design simple animal behavior (memory and learning) experiments. At school students will use their mazes by conducting experiments involving mice learning how to complete their mazes. Mice experiments will be supervised by myself to ensure no animals are harmed.

III  Students will make a poster board containing the material outlined below (a separate report is not required). The poster board may be turned in 2 weeks after the due date above so that results of the classroom mouse maze experiments can be included.



   Design and build a mouse maze that will be used to conduct mouse memory and learning experiments. Students will need to research and think out their designs thoroughly. Students will then need to plan a layout for the maze of suitable dimensions and pick out materials that can be sawed or cut to shape to make the walls of the maze. 

   Each student is responsible for building their own maze. However students are encouraged to collaborate in the maze and experiment design process. For example two students could make mirror image mazes. Would you predict that to have any effect on the difficulty level for the mouse? Think about how many left turns and right turns there are and the sequence in which they occur. What factors contribute to the difficulty of the maze? How can you measure maze difficulty? What is a suitable ‘control’? Remember mice can smell the bait even if they cannot see it. Can you design a maze where the bait location is close to the mouse starting location but requires traveling a long distance? Some students will design and build mazes that are modular and can be reconfigured for multiple experiments.

  The behavior experiments will consist of a series of timed tests to determine how long a particular fasting mouse takes to learn and complete its maze and reach the reward of peanut butter under varying circumstances. Students should research Pavlovian and Skinnerian responses on the internet to help in designing their own classroom experiments. One such test involves inserting a small mirrorin the center of the maze (after the mouse has learned the maze) to reverse the view ahead and see how the mouse reacts.

  Students should keep notes of any design and build changes they make while working on the maze and document how specific problems are solved. The maze will need a removable lid which can be safely secured while the mouse is in the maze but easily taken off when the mouse needs to be extracted.

Teacher Tips

   Try to use pet resistant materials. Wood may be the best material to use since the mice will not be able to nibble through it in the short amounts of time they will be in the maze. Thin wooden panels can be easily sawn to shape and glued in place on a base board. A plexi-glass or acrylic (clear plastic sheet) lid or side panel will allow mice to be seen when inside the maze, alternatively chicken wire or mesh could be used. 

Grading Rubric

In order to attain a grade of ‘A’ :

•  The mouse maze is functional. It can safely contain a small mammal such as a mouse or hamster for up to 10 minutes without the animal escaping.

•  The maze is carefully designed and built from suitable material.  

•  The poster board contains an accurate diagram of the maze drawn to scale with a ruler or computer draw program and clearly labeled (one page). 

  A journal is included. Key decisions and discoveries are discussed including what problems where encountered and how they were solved in designing and building. An inventory is included that lists and costs all components used. Total cost is calculated.

The student demonstrates skill in scientific lab report writing by providing an account of the experimental design, procedure, results, conclusion and analysis. 

•  A self-assessment is included which summarizes what was learned, honestly discusses the deficiencies and strengths of the project and grades the assignment.

  Resource and bibliography. People, books, websites etc are acknowledged.



© Sean Wilmot 2012