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Squirrel Nature Study Lesson Plans

Updated on June 11, 2015
Gray Squirrel in the Backyard
Gray Squirrel in the Backyard | Source

Natural History in Your Backyard

Nature study is part of a well-rounded homeschool education, especially if you espouse the Charlotte Mason style of teaching. Miss Mason thought that the science learning of young children in elementary school should primarily revolve around direct observation of nature.

Those first-hand natural history lessons are complemented by the keeping of a nature notebook or journal where the student records his observations, stores sketches, and attaches leaves or pressed flowers.

One of the easiest places to start nature study is in your own back yard or neighborhood park. If you have squirrels, you have a wonderful nature study topic. These active mammals make for a very fun observation study.

  • Sit on the porch with a pair of binoculars and focus up close on the squirrels' tail twitching and silly antics.
  • Stay inside and peer through a window at squirrels' tree climbing prowess.
  • Get quiet and listen to the squirrel "language" of chirps and chatter.

A Handy Tool for Watching Squirrels

Celestron 71133 UpClose 10x25 Roof Prism Binocular
Celestron 71133 UpClose 10x25 Roof Prism Binocular

I purchased a pair of these binoculars for our backyard nature studies. My only regret was that I didn't buy three pairs -- one for each of us. We often "fight" over using them.

 

Seeing With More Precision

Children using binoculars to observe nature in finer detail.
Children using binoculars to observe nature in finer detail. | Source

Outline of a Squirrel Nature Study

You may mix up the order of the components, but here are some suggested activities for a nature study of squirrels.

1. Observe squirrels for at least 20 minutes.

2. Generate some observations and questions based on what you saw. These can be discussed orally or written down.

3. Read The Handbook of Nature Study (or another field guide) for general information about squirrels, seeking to confirm your observations and to answer any questions you have.

4. Continue to observe squirrels at various times of the day, making notes in your nature journal. Try to capture their actions on paper either through descriptive words or through sketches. Use binoculars if possible to observe in more detail.

5. Supplement your squirrel study with some living books about nature. (See the list of free, public domain books about squirrels below.)

6. Collect everything you've learned about squirrels in a written narration on notebooking pages (printables linked below). Include both what you've read and what you've personally observed.

Can You Identify a Squirrel's Nest?

A squirrel nest high in a birch tree.
A squirrel nest high in a birch tree. | Source
Yes, that mess of leaves is a squirrel nest.
Yes, that mess of leaves is a squirrel nest. | Source

Things to Look For When Observing Squirrels

When you are watching squirrels, look for these things:

  • How do the squirrels move from place to place? Running, leaping, crawling?
  • How do squirrels seem to communicate with one another? Can you hear them?
  • Does there seem to be a squirrel bully or leader?
  • Can you identify any young squirrels? How do you know?
  • Are there any places the squirrels seem to especially like?
  • Do you see any squirrel nests in the trees? Do you ever see the squirrels going to them? Do you see a squirrel building a nest?
  • What are the squirrels eating? What are their eating habits?
  • What kind of squirrel is in your backyard? Grey squirrels, fox squirrels, red squirrels, or flying squirrels?

Feed the Squirrels

Birds Choice Squirrel Feeder Munch Box
Birds Choice Squirrel Feeder Munch Box

Putting out food for the squirrels can add to your enjoyment of their antics. This feeder has a top which the squirrels learn to open.

 

Three Common Squirrel Species

Gray Squirrel
Gray Squirrel | Source
Fox Squirrel
Fox Squirrel | Source
Red Squirrel
Red Squirrel | Source

Squirrel Notebooking Pages

Source
Original Handbook of Nature Study
Original Handbook of Nature Study | Source

Using the Handbook of Nature Study

The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Bostford Comstock is something of a nature study bible for Charlotte Mason educators. Covering a broad range of living and non-living things in nature, The Handbook of Nature Study is a good starting point for questions about what you observe during nature walks. Consider it a natural history curriculum spine.

The Handbook covers squirrels and includes a charming story of Furry, a baby squirrel found by a naturalist and nursed to independence.

Find free electronic copies in various formats at Archive.org.

The print version linked below is a thick (887 pages), paperback book with black and white illustrations and photos. It is the complete, unabridged version and includes study or discussion questions at the end of each section.

In addition to the Handbook, there are many excellent living books in the public domain that deal with squirrels. See the list below for these titles, many of which were recommended by Anna Botsford Comstock for further study.

Gray Squirrels
Gray Squirrels | Source

Squirrel Taxonomy

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Rodentia

Suborder: Sciuromorpha

Family: Sciuridae

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    • naturegirl7 profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 6 years ago from South Louisiana

      Wonderful unit of study. When I was a teacher / school librarian, I would do a lot of observation activities with my students. Good observation skills are the first step toward being a good scientist.

    • JimmieWriter profile image
      Author

      Jimmie Lanley 6 years ago from Memphis, TN USA

      Thanks for the confirmation, naturegirl! Observation skills are also important for writing. :-)

    • mulberry1 profile image

      mulberry1 6 years ago

      Not being a homeschooler I hadn't heard of Charlotte Mason, but from what I see here, I would be a fan. I grew up in a rural area and spending time oberving is to me the best way to really learn about things in nature. The attention to detail and the patience to study things carries over into many things.

    Observe Squirrel Communication

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