Theme: Fall

Squirreling Away Food


Objective: Children will learn how some animals spend time in the fall getting ready for winter, and explore the fall habits of squirrels.

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What You Will Need

  • Shallow basin of water
  • Long pieces of brown butcher paper – 1 per 3 children
  • Black tempera paint – 1 bottle
  • Variety of plastic animals – at least 1 per child
  • Paper plates – 1 per 2 children
  • Paper towels – 1 roll
  • 8 ½”x11” white paper – 1 sheet per child
  • Pictures of a variety of animals
  • Pictures of nuts, seeds, and other food that squirrels would not eat, such as ice cream and hot dogs

What To Do

Note: This activity involves taking two walks outside – in the morning and in the afternoon.

  1. Introduce the concept of storing food for the winter (see Did You Know?).
  2. Take the children on a squirrel walk in the morning and count the number of squirrels you see. When you see one, look up into the nearby trees and see if you can spot a nest. (Squirrels are active between early morning and midday. They spend the rest of the day in or around their nests.)
  3. Later in the afternoon, go on another walk and count the squirrels again. Have the children compare the number of squirrels they saw in the morning versus the afternoon.
  4. Discuss how we don’t always see animals, but we can find evidence of them by looking for their tracks, or footprints, in the dirt, mud or snow.
  5. To give the children a basic understanding of animal tracks, let them make some tracks of their own.
  6. Have each child take off his/her shoes and socks, step into a basin of water and walk on a long piece of paper. Let the children examine their footprints.
  7. Next, make tracks using paint and plastic animals.
  8. Set the children up in small groups at tables. Provide each table with a few paper plates of paint, paper, and plastic animals.
  9. Demonstrate how to dip the animals in paint and make tracks on paper.
  10. Encourage the children to use different animals and compare the animals’ prints.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • What kinds of animals do we see in our community?
  • Do we see these animals all the time or only during certain times of the year?
  • Tell me what you know about squirrels (where they live, what they eat, what they look like).
  • What do squirrels do with their food in the fall?
  • Describe what your footprint looks like.
  • Tell me how people’s footprints are all the same.
  • Tell me what is different about all animal tracks.

Explore, Extend and Integrate

  • Use one of your rest periods as a hibernation time. Encourage the children to bring in a favorite pillow, blanket and/or stuffed animal. Give the children a snack and then help them use their blankets and pillows to create nests on their rest mats or cots. Tell them that they are going to snuggle down for a winter nap.
  • Display pictures of nuts and seeds. Explain that these are what squirrels hide for the winter. Cut tracks out of butcher paper and hide “food” (pictures of nuts, seeds, and food that squirrels would not eat) around the room. Place the tracks around the room to help the children discover the hidden “food”. Once the children have found the pictures, have them identify which of the foods squirrels would hide for the winter.
  • Place pictures of animals and pictures of animal tracks in the discovery area. Have the children match each animal with its tracks.
  • Put a variety of stuffed animals in the dramatic play area. Try to include animals that hibernate and migrate as well as animals that do neither. Provide blankets and boxes so the children can create nests and caves for the animals to use for hibernating.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Were children able to participate in the discussion about hibernation?
  • Was each child able to locate and identify a squirrel?

Did You Know?

Fall is a time when many animals prepare for winter. Because it is hard to find food in some places in the winter, certain animals migrate, or move, to other places where food is more plentiful. A few examples of animals that migrate are birds, bats, fish and butterflies. Some animals, such as snakes, groundhogs and chipmunks, don’t migrate. Instead, they hibernate, or go into a deep sleep, in the winter. However, other animals, like squirrels, prepare for the cold winter months by storing food in the fall.

Learn More »


Vocabulary

  • tracks
  • footprint
  • bury
  • store
  • hibernate
  • squirrel nest

Child-Friendly Definitions »


Common Core State
Standards Initiative

These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge.**

Learn More »

Did You Know?

Fall is a time when many animals prepare for winter. Because it is hard to find food in some places in the winter, certain animals migrate, or move, to other places where food is more plentiful. A few examples of animals that migrate are birds, bats, fish and butterflies. Some animals, such as snakes, groundhogs and chipmunks, don’t migrate. Instead, they hibernate, or go into a deep sleep, in the winter. However, other animals, like squirrels, prepare for the cold winter months by storing food in the fall.

Squirrels can be found in our everyday environment. Squirrels gather nuts and seeds during the fall and bury them in the ground or hide them in their nests. When winter comes, they find the nuts and seeds they have buried and eat them. Scientists have learned that some squirrels are very tricky about how they hide their food and even bury fake nuts. To protect their food from other animals, they dig holes but bury nothing in them. They just pretend in order to make other animals think something is buried there!

Vocabulary

  • tracks — the marks from animal feet that are left on the ground by the animal’s movement.
  • footprint — a mark left when a foot is pressed into a surface.
  • bury — to cover over something with dirt in the ground.
  • store — to gather up something and keep it to use in the future.
  • hibernate — a form of sleeping in a burrow or den during the winter in order to save energy; animals such as groundhogs and snakes hibernate.
  • squirrel nest — a squirrel’s home, made of twigs and leaves found on tree branches or in tree cavities.

Lesson Tips

- Some children may not want to remove their shoes or get their feet wet. Let them make tracks with their hands instead.

 

 

Books

- Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows

- The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri

- Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming

- Tracks in the Wild by Betsy Bowen

- Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft

 

Important Legal Disclosures and Information

*While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed. 

**There are currently no Common Core Standards for pre-k, but these lessons are aligned as closely as possible to capture the requirements and meet the goals of Common Core Standards. However, these lessons were neither reviewed or approved by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices or the Council of Chief State School Officers, which together are the owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards.