Although many scholars – not only in the field of biology didactics – have repeatedly emphasized the importance of living organisms in biology lessons, there is little current research on this topic. In strong contrast to representational devices, such as movies or computer programs, living animals have yet to be given a solid pedagogical context. However, they offer sensory impressions and more authentic experience via direct contact with the learner.
On the basis of several learning theories (e.g. constructivism, self-determination theory) we are conducting studies using animals in school lessons. We are interested in measuring the emotional aspects, i.e. motivation and learning climate, as well as the cognitive dimensions of having students interact directly with animals ("Do students learn better through contact with living animals?"). The animal used in most situations is the European harvest mouse, an interesting and local, wild animal.