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Searching for Squirrels

Topic: 2C Variation

The plight of the disappearing native British species, the red squirrel is being highlighted. However the culprit, the American grey squirrel, is itself being slowly overwhelmed in parts of the country by the little-known black squirrel.
There are two main types of squirrel in Britain; one ‘native' red (sciurus vulgaris) squirrel and the introduced grey (Sciurus carolinensis) squirrel. Each type has a black (melanic) variety and a white (albino) variety. The black and albino varieties of the ‘red' are mostly found in mainland Europe and are rare in Britain. However the black and albino variants of the ‘grey' squirrel are found in Britain.

In this activity children will collect data about the distribution of black squirrels and record it on a map with the date of the sighting. This data can be sent to the Government Forestry department to form part of a national survey.

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Try the Activity Learning Objective

Click to Download Searching for Squirrels activity
Searching for Squirrels activity

Click to Download Searching for Squirrels teacher notes
Searching for Squirrels teacher notes


You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

You will also need the latest version of the flash player to be able to play swf files.

that there are different species of squirrel

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 1 successfully.

that different species of squirrels differ in size

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 1 successfully.

that black squirrels have been seen in the UK

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 3 successfully.

to follow simple instructions and compare their prediction with what actually happened

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 3 successfully.

Curriculum Link

QCA Unit 2C: Variation
to observe and recognise some simple characteristics of animals and plants

Scientific enquiry
follow simple instructions to control the risks to themselves and others
compare what happened with what they expected would happen, and try to explain it, drawing on their knowledge and understanding

Speaking and listening
extend their ideas in light of discussion
be able to put forward a point of view

Running the Activity

Introducing the activity

Display Page 1 through a projector or as an OHT. Discuss the images with the children.
- Have you seen a squirrel?
- Where might we see them?
- What might they eat?
- How will this affect where they have to live?
- Do you think we would see more in a town or in the country?

Leading the main activity

Display Page 2 through a data projector or on an OHT.
Class discussion- each red and grey squirrel has a black and albino (white) variant (variety). We are going to be looking for the black squirrel and record our findings. The latest estimates show there could be as many as 25,000 black squirrels in the east of England. Melanic (black) grey squirrels were introduced to Woburn Park (Bedfordshire) from the U.S. at the end of the 19th Century. Albino squirrels have an absence of pigment in the hair (which is white) and are also rare in Britain, but have been reported in Essex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
On a world map show US and Great Britain - to discuss introducing from one country to another. http://maps.google.co.uk/

Display Page 3 through a data projector or as an OHT. Discuss with the children.

We are going to use this table on our squirrel hunt -
We will record the location of squirrels we find in this table
Take your map (prepare before with grid squares on it and label axis with letters and numbers). Give a map to each pair, they can write a grid reference into their squirrel table.
Discuss as class - where can we look? (going for walks, to the local park, woods, trees etc.)
Print out copies of table (on Page 3) and map of area for children as appropriate.

Web Links

BBC News
The original news story

Forestry Commission
Information about the red squirrel

The National Strategies
Website for Assessing Pupils' Progress (APP)

Daily Mail
Report of a woman feeding a black squirrel that is very friendly

Story about the origins of the black squirrel

Squirrel obstacle course

Google Images
Images of baby squirrels

Forestry Commission
Black squirrel distribution map

BBC News
Albino squirrels

Google Maps
Zoom (scroll) right out and you can drag the map to see the whole world

BBC News
Story about how red squirrels may have developed immunity to squirrelpox

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