Download the free Project Squirrel mobile phone app from either iTunes or the Google Play Store and start participating in this citizen scientist project today! Learn more about Project Squirrel at their Web site.
K-LS1-1 Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.
Students can observe squirrels as they collect Project Squirrel data and record the activities they see these animals doing. Students can hypothesize what the observed squirrel behaviors are used for and how they help the animals to survive. Students can look for behavioral differences between different types of squirrels and between squirrels and other animals.
K-ESS2-2 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how plants and animals (including humans) can change the environment to meet their needs.
Students can observe squirrel behaviors while they are collecting Project Squirrel data. They should decide how the squirrels are changing their environment to their benefit.
K-ESS3-1 Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants or animals (including humans) and the places they live.
While collecting Project Squirrel data, students can observe and record how squirrels change and depend upon their environment and how the environment affects and is dependent on squirrels.
K-ESS3-3 Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air and/or other living things in the local environment.
As they collect Project Squirrel data, students can look for ways that human behaviors affect squirrels. Students can discuss ways to lessen the impact of humans on squirrel populations.
1-LS1-1 Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow and meet their needs.
While collecting data for Project Squirrel, students should observe squirrels and their characteristics. Discuss what traits help squirrels to survive. How could those same traits help humans to survive? Design something based on a squirrel trait that could help humans in their daily life.
2-LS2-2 Develop a simple model that mimics the function of an animal in dispersing seeds or pollinating plants.
As they collect data for Project Squirrel, students should observe the behavior of squirrels. Have them note any squirrel behaviors that result in seed dispersal. Students should develop a model to show this behavior and how it works.
2-LS4-1 Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.
As they collect data for Project Squirrel, students can record the variety and numbers of squirrel species that they observe in different habitats. Which habitat has the most variety of squirrel species? Which habitat has the most squirrels? How can you explain these results?
3-LS3-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence that plants and animals have traits inherited from parents and that variation of these traits exists in a group of similar organisms.
While collecting data for Project Squirrel, students should observe individual squirrels in the population for variations in traits and behaviors. Are they all the same size? Do they all do the same things? Can they all move at the same speed? Do they all feed in the same place? Do they all eat the same way? There are many things to observe. What differences may exist that the students cannot observe? Which traits were the animals born with? Which traits developed after birth? How do differences in the squirrels affect them?
3-LS3-2 Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment.
Ask students to observe squirrels as they collect Project Squirrel data. Try to look at squirrels in a variety of habitats. In particular, look for cases where squirrels may change their behavior based on external factors. For instance, are there differences in feeding behaviors when squirrels have access to bird feeders or other food provided by humans? Are there differences in the size of squirrels that regularly utilize bird feeders as compared to those that do not? Do squirrels in urban neighborhoods have different behaviors than those in rural or forested neighborhoods?
3-LS4-2 Use evidence to construct an explanation for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates and reproducing.
As students collect data for Project Squirrel, have them observe squirrel behaviors and traits. How do the squirrels differ in these traits? How could differences help them to survive? For example, some squirrels may be faster than other squirrels. How could speed be an advantage to a squirrel? Some squirrels are darker in color than other squirrels. How could darker coloration be an advantage to a squirrel? Some squirrels may have a longer tail than other squirrels. How could a long tail be a survival advantage?
3-LS4-3 Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well and some cannot survive at all.
While collecting Project Squirrel data, students should observe squirrels in their habitats. What traits help squirrels to survive in this habitat? Have students name an animal that cannot survive in this habitat. Why can’t it survive here? Have them name an animal that might survive in squirrel habitat but might not thrive there. Is this organism anything like a squirrel? What traits would this animal need to survive well in this habitat?
3-LS4-4 Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes and the types of plants and animals that live there may change.
What are some changes that have occurred to the habitat where the students are observing squirrels (trees cut down, increased traffic, construction, etc.)? Are the changes human-made or natural? How are squirrels affected by the changes? Is there anything the squirrels can do about the change? What are some problems that may or have occurred because of the change in the environment? What, if anything, can be done about the change? Should a change be made? Students should use evidence to support their claim.
4-LS1-1 Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior and reproduction.
Students should observe squirrels as they collect data for Project Squirrel. They should make note of characteristics that they observe in squirrels (live and dead). How do these traits help squirrels to survive? Each student should support his/her answer with evidence.
MS-LS1-4 Use argument based on empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support an explanation for how characteristic animal behaviors and specialized plant structures affect the probability of successful reproduction of animals and plants respectively.
Based on their observations of squirrels as they collect data for Project Squirrel, students should be able to reason that certain behaviors such as building leaf nests, living in tree cavities, burying food, using available food (bird feeders), etc. help squirrels to survive and thus increase reproductive success. If the students notice squirrels burying acorns, ask them to explain how that behavior could increase plant reproductive success.
MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
Project Squirrel observations could be used and correlated with local climate data to track squirrel populations over time. Students could look for numbers of squirrels in the area over several years and see if there are significant changes related to droughts, excessive rainfall, cold or mild winters or other local ecological factors.
MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
As students observe squirrels to collect Project Squirrel data, they should also make their own observations regarding squirrel habitats and behaviors. This information should be compiled each year and made accessible to all students. Over time the data should show trends in squirrel populations and changes in local habitats. Students should use this data to note how changes in physical or biological components in the area have resulted in changes to squirrel populations, if any.