Homeschooling Resources: Studying Squirrels
BY REBECCA RUPP
October not only features Columbus Day, Leif Erikson Day, Pablo Picasso’s birthday, and Halloween – it’s SQUIRREL AWARENESS MONTH!
Become a citizen squirrel scientist!
Project Squirrel at http://www.projectsquirrel.org wants volunteers of all ages from all regions of the country to report squirrel sightings.
From Exploring Nature Educational Resource, “Watching Squirrels” at http://www.exploringnature.org/db/detail.php?dbID=45&detID=2278 has nature study suggestions and drawing helps for squirrel observers (and nature journal keepers) ages 8 and up.
Need more squirrels to sight? An almost foolproof way to attract squirrels is to feed them. Homemade Squirrel Feeders for Kids at http://www.ehow.com/info_8029631_homemade-squirrel-feeders-kids.html has an easy-to-make list, including corncob, pine cone, and milk carton feeders.
Diane Swanson’s Welcome to the World of Squirrels (Walrus Books, 2001), illustrated with color photographs, is a great basic introduction of squirrels, with a 32-page reader-friendly text covering squirrel anatomy, different types of squirrels, worldwide distribution, behavior, habitats, food, and predators. Readers learn that tree squirrels can have up to ten different nests (and can weave a new nest in a day). And don’t bother going to Australia to see squirrels. Australia has no squirrels. For ages 5-9.
Or interact with some great fictional squirrels…
In Lois Ehlert’s Nuts to You (Sandpiper, 2004), illustrated with gorgeous paper collages, a feisty city squirrel digs up the flowerpots, steals seeds from the birdfeeder, and sneaks through a hole in the window screen into a little boy’s apartment bedroom. For ages 3-6.
To accompany Nuts to You, Teach Preschool at http://www.teachpreschool.org/2012/09/nuts-about-acorns-in-preschool-lois-ehlert/ has instructions for activities in which kids estimate numbers of acorns and make acorn shaker bottles.
Nuts About Squirrels at http://www.nysci.org/media/file/PreschoolSquirrel.pdf is a Preschool Educator Guide with instructions for an acorn-hiding game, acorn-planting and nut classification activities, and a short squirrel booklist.
In Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (Frederick Warne, 2012), originally published in 1903, Nutkin – a mischievous pest with a taste for rhyming riddles – goes too far with grouchy owl Old Brown and loses a chunk of his tail.
What do squirrels use their tails for? Among other things, to scare snakes. Read about it and watch the video at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/07/tail-shakes-scare-snakes.html.
See also Homeschooling Resources: Many Moons
Loud Crow Interactive’s Pop Out! The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin at http://loudcrow.com/popout-the-tale-of-squirrel-nutkin is a wonderful 50-page interactive app in which Potter’s illustrations pop out of the page when touched or slide on tabs, along with animations and an audio background of chattering squirrels and growly owl. Also see Loud Crow’s terrific Pop Out! The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
The panic-stricken protagonist of Melanie Watts’s Scaredy Squirrel (Kids Can Press, 2008) is too terrified to leave his tree. After all, anything could be out there in the fearsome unknown – Martians, sharks, tarantulas, germs. Then one day, terrified by passing (killer?) bees, he leaps from his tree – and discovers, to his amazement, that he’s not just a squirrel: he’s a flying squirrel. There are many hilarious sequels, in which Scaredy Squirrel variously fears rabbits, piranhas, jellyfish, falling coconuts, dragons, ghosts, bats, confetti, ponies, and Bigfoot. For ages 4-8.
Those Darn Squirrels!
Adam Rubin’s hilarious and delightful Those Darn Squirrels! (Sandpiper, 2011) features the unspeakably grumpy Old Man Fookwire, who hates pies and puppies – but loves birds. He paints bird portraits and fills his yard with beautiful birdfeeders, in hopes of persuading his beloved birds stay with him through the winter. The feeders promptly attract a gang of particularly persistent and innovative (they’re good with pulleys and catapults) squirrels. When the birds do fly south, leaving Old Man Fookwire alone in his house mournfully eating cottage cheese, the squirrels decide to do him a good turn in payment for all the goodies they’ve nabbed. Sequels include Those Darn Squirrels Fly South and Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door. For ages 4-8.
In James Burks’s graphic novel Bird & Squirrel on the Run (Scholastic/Graphix, 2012), Bird and Squirrel are an unlikely duo: Bird is a happy-go-lucky free spirit, while Squirrel, who never takes off his acorn helmet, is nervous and obsessive (“New things give me stomachaches”). Both are in danger from Cat, a toothy orange monster who would like nothing better than to eat them both. When Squirrel’s winter food supply is destroyed, Bird and Squirrel head south, forging a friendship, foiling a cat, and developing a taste for adventure along the way. For ages 7-10.
For even more on squirrels, including squirrel arts and crafts, a philosophy lesson for kids (with squirrels), a real live purple squirrel, and the story of White House squirrels, check out “Squirrels” at Becky Rupp’s resource blog at http://www.rebeccaruppresources.com.