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Patterns of adaptation: Observing squirrels at home

Elementary, Middle

Description

This outdoor lesson involves learners in observing squirrels in their natural environment to develop an increased awareness of ecological connections. These appealing, lively rodents are the subject of a field study where students describe the placement of squirrel nests in relationship to features like compass direction, tree type and branch configuration. The investigation highlights how these seemingly frenetic animals actually have a purposeful, organized approach to creating secure homes which reinforces understanding about the adaptive significance of behavioural patterns in wildlife.

General Assessment

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This activity supports science learning about interactions in ecosystems, habitats, adaptations and animal ecology. Students use science process skills such as observation, making predictions and recording findings. The lesson also uses math concepts like estimation, measurement and pattern recognition to reinforce the environmental learning. 

While students are outside observing squirrel nests they could also record seed burying behaviour to explore the significant ecological role of these animals in determining plant composition. A class could examine food caches and collect data on seed types to learn how squirrels increase forest diversity. This information could be used to increase community knowledge about the vital role of all native animal species in maintaining a healthy environment, even those that we often consider 'pests”.

Relevant Curriculum Units

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  • Alberta
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    • Grade 3
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      • Science
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        • Investigating change and the diversity of Earth’s systems helps us to develop understandings of the conditions necessary to sustain life.
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        • Investigating change and the diversity of Earth’s systems helps us to develop understandings of the conditions necessary to sustain life.
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        • Trees and Forests
  • British Columbia
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        • Science 3: Living things are diverse, can be grouped, and interact in their ecosystems
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        • Science 4: All living things sense and respond to their environment
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        • Diversity of Living Things
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        • Life Systems: Habitats & Communities
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        • Life Systems: Diversity of Living Things
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        • Science 3: Living things are diverse, can be grouped, and interact in their ecosystems
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        • Science 4: All living things sense and respond to their environment

Themes Addressed

  • Ecosystems (1)

    • Appreciating the Natural World