Now we looked at the squirrel as part of our Autumn nature studies last year, but we could not resist giving this little fellow another 'hour' of our time, especially after watching Autumnwatch - episode 1, where they had given over a portion of the program to squirrels. I was amazed at how much more I learnt about this cute little creature. Again - what perfect timing as November is Mammal month over at The Handbook of Nature Study. All this new information that I had gleaned one chilly Autumn evening while the children were in bed, was too good to pass up, and so I started putting together a little nature lesson to share with our bi-monthly co-op.
Our co-op day arrived, and our little family drove over the beautiful Derbyshire Peaks to visit our friends. As we all sat chatting around my dear friends kitchen table, one of her children mentioned how much he disliked squirrels as they were so pesky! Ta-daaa! 'Well, funny you should mention that Mr. J', said I, 'because he is the focus of our OHC today!'
I was eager to try and change his perceptions of squirrels. Often, I find, our dislike for a certain living creature can be rooted in ignorance. We simply do not understand enough of the creatures habits to appreciate them.
I started off asking all the children to tell me everything they knew about squirrels. We had lots of very good points made, but we also had the popular misconception that squirrels hibernate put forward. I then read a little for the Handbook of nature study - notes I had made and bits I had highlighted after reading Pgs 233 -236 in The Handbook of Nature Study. We then watched the very entertaining and informative clip from Autumnwatch, which had everyone giggling at the squirrels antics and generally marvelling at all the new information we were learning.
The children were especially amazed at what a great pirate the squirrel is and what a master of deception he can be when it comes to hiding his nuts. Amazingly we learnt that the squirrel can bury up to 3000 nuts in the Autumn and remember up to where 90% of them are buried by using his memory and landmarks! What a clever little fellow he is!
After this clip, I felt that there was a deeper understanding - and appreciation- of Mr. Nutkin and his seemingly naughty and destructive behaviour. Mission Accomplished!
While the children filled in their notebooking page for their nature journals, I read the account of the sweet little rescued squirrel - Furry - In The Handbook of Nature Study (pgs237-238), an account enjoyed by all of us. It made us wish that we could raise a little squirrel of our own. Our lesson was concluded with a yet another wet walk. We spotted a few squirrels and gathered up some autumn treasures on an Autumn Scavenger Hunt sheet from Nature Detectives.
A new week has come, at home we are keeping an eye out for squirrels as we go along our business. What excitement when we spotted one cheeky little fellow raiding an old bird-feeder that sits just outside our kitchen window. We watched him scurry up and down, searching under some bushes and busily burying a find in the grass. We watched his antics for a good 10 minutes, each of us totally taken with his enthusiasm and general cuteness factor :o). He slowly became aware of our prying eyes and scampered up an old tree that backs onto our yard. He spent about 3 minutes staring at us through our kitchen window from his safe and lofty perch before scampering into a hole in the side of the tree.
We have seen him a couple more times during the week, sometimes scampering quickly across our vast lawn, sometimes at the furthest reaches of our garden digging and delving amongst the fallen autumn leaves. Today I found a sweet little story about the squirrel by Thornton Burgess on The Baldwin Project. We will read it together and then have a look at our Mammal Grid and pick out an activity to do or observe.
We have certainly been blessed with mammals this month. Our garden seems to be a hive of activity for many creatures. I'm sure it always is, it's just that we have this heightened awareness at the moment - all thanks to Barbs brilliant OHC and her lovely Newsletter.
Until next time...