Harley, Willow, Snicker, Cleo, and Nova are the names of Rennie McMains five pet rats — that’s right, domestic rats living right here in Glenshire.

Before you scoff at the unconventional pet, take a minute and learn how McMains, a science teacher at Sierra Expeditionary Learning School, uses her pets as a teaching tool for lessons in both science and compassion. Her hope is that these animals will be instrumental in fighting the exact stigma you may have had when you first started reading.


“I want the animals to teach students empathy, compassion, and understanding of their character,” she said. “We treat things differently if we understand them.”

When bringing her rats to the classroom, McMains asks the students to observe, watch, and ask questions; she even encourages them to pick up and touch the rats if they feel comfortable. Next, she teaches students how to make agility course obstacles to stimulate the animals’ brains. “Rats are like little puppies,” she explained. “They are curious and smart.”

McMains is bringing her rat agility course to the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe’s sold-out Edventure Summer Camp July 11 and 18. To get your child on the camp’s waitlist, please call (530) 587-5948 or stop by the shelter.


  • Ally Gravina

    Ally Gravina is a freelance journalist and former Moonshine editor based in Graeagle. She has a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in arts and culture reporting.

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