Behaviour 2019
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Learning Paradigm: Tardigrades in the Classroom
Riley J. Wincheski , Amanda Somers, Charles I. Abramson. Oklahoma State University , Stillwater, Oklahoma, United States

Comparative psychology has many advantageous and practical applications in the classroom. Students of all ages can develop many STEM skills including learning how to make comparisons, distinguish behaviors, and manipulate live organisms. The classroom is an ideal environment for supervised experimental training. Further, tardigrades are suitable for use in comparative experimentation due to their size, upkeep, and quick learning capabilities. This teaching activity uses comparative psychology to show habituation, a form of learning, and to provide students with hands research experience. In this experiment, tardigrades are desensitized to repeated physical touch. Tardigrades are placed under a microscope and poked with a probe until the strength of their response decreases to the point when there is no reaction for 10 consecutive trials. Once the habituation criteria are reached, a new stimulus is presented as a dishabituation control to ensure the subject responds appropriately to the new stimuli. This experiment is easy to perform and does not require a lot of time or tools. To aid in experimental effectiveness, discussion questions as well as a sample data sheet are included.