Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2013

Project Squirrel

Solid citizen-science site with good extension projects

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Teachers say (1 Review)
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Grades
1-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Project Squirrel lets kids be part of an actual research project in their own backyards.

Cons: Unless you're part of the Greater Chicago Area, your data isn't included in the research team's conclusions.

Bottom Line: This online, collaborative science project is a solid resource for making data collection relevant to kids.

Project Squirrel is a great tool for individual kids, science clubs, or science classes. Contact information lives under the FAQ section for kids who want to participate in a community-service project.

 

For classes looking to work collaboratively on a research project, Project Squirrel is best used in conjunction with Project Noah. If kids submit photographs on Project Noah, teachers can easily track student participation. In addition, the resources provided by Project Squirrel allow classes to set up and collect data on actual experiments. Site reports on data from thousands of users present interesting conclusions that can inspire discussion and further research.

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Kids observe squirrels to help them understand the Chicago-area ecosystem, along with ecologies in other parts of the United States. Students collect and report data about the location and number of gray and fox squirrels. Project Squirrel also provides directions for how to set up feeding stations at your home or school. Kids can set up multiple locations with varied levels of risk for the squirrels. Then they collect information about where the squirrels feed more often, weighing the squirrels' risks with the benefits of the food. Kids can email photos and comments about the squirrels, which are then posted on the site. Overall, Project Squirrel is a useful tool for teachers interested in making data collecting relevant.

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Project Squirrel is one of the missions of the citizen-science site Project Noah. Whereas Project Noah is more visually appealing and has a teacher dashboard to track students' squirrel "spottings," Project Squirrel provides opportunities that move beyond entering data on number and location. Kids can follow detailed instructions on setting up data-gathering stations to observe squirrel behavior in food gathering.

 

It would be an improvement if kids could see the raw data from all users and how it grows in real time. This would allow students to form their own conclusions from the data.

 

Standout Activities

"Record Squirrel Observations": Observe and record the number and location of gray and fox squirrels.

"Collect Foraging Patch Data": Build foraging patches and observe where squirrels eat the most food.

"Share Squirrel Photos": Take pictures of local squirrels and submit them to the site via email.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

The project is limited to population investigations of squirrels, which may not be interesting for all kids. Though the site design isn't visually appealing, kids could still get wrapped up in collecting data for real research.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Kids get to collect the data, but they don't see real time results or get to form their own conclusions.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

Extension guides for doing foraging experiments allow kids to take their investigation beyond just counting squirrels.


Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

3
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Featured review by
Jessica M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Hite Saunders Elementary School
Huntington, WV
3
Nice extension to a science lesson.

I love the amount of information and getting to show students that there are communities of scientists on the internet. I thought that the website, although tranquil in color, was not visually appealing for second grade students (until I read them the information they basically looked at the pictures and were ready to move on). After we looked for squirrels on our own at recess and through our class windows we were able to upload our data. I thought the site was clearly labeled and easy to use, but would have loved if they actually posted live results from all states, not just where the information gathering started.

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