Those Darn Squirrels Are Great Engineers!

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The SWBAT state the specific steps engineers follow to find solutions to problems by identifying how characters respond to a major challenge.”

Big Idea

Even squirrels can be engineers by following steps in the design process.

Teacher Notes

Activity Description

In a previous lesson I read the book Those Darn Squirrels! up to page 16 to the class.  The children then developed their own design for building a squirrel-proof feeder.  This lesson picks up from that point in the book.  After reading specific pages, the kids decide what part of the engineering design process Old man Fookwire is doing and pick out the card that shows the name of the step in the process.  Then we continue reading and discuss what steps in the engineering design process the squirrels are taking (yes, the squirrels are engineers, too).  After the entire book is read, discussion focuses on how the characters respond to major challenges.

NGSS/Common Core Connections

After reading the book the children will be answering such questions are who, what, where, when and why about the main action of the story.  They will also be discussing how characters respond to major challenges by using information gained by the cute pictures and story.  They will have to figure out which step of the engineering design process was used, thus practicing all of the process.




Follow-up Questions

15 minutes
 I hang the Engineering Design Process Cards up on our bulletin board.  You could also put magnetics on the back and place them on the board.  You want the students to be able to reach them for the next activity.
I continue reading the book Those Darn Squirrels!  I STOP AFTER READING PAGE 18.
What part of the engineer design process did Mr. Fookwire do? (Identifying the Engineering Design Process video clip.


Then I read the next two pages (up to page 20)

What parts of the engineering design process did the squirrels complete?

  • Defined the problem
  • Brainstormed ideas all night (brainstorming video clip)
  • Choose their best idea
  • Developed
  • Built a launch
  • Tested their idea out


Then I finish reading the rest of the book.  After reading I ask these questions about the characters responding to major challenges:

Mr. Fookwire was challenged when the squirrels kept eating birdfood.  How did he respond at first?  Why?

He kept building better birdfeeders.  He probably was hoping that he could keep the squirrels away and then feed the birds that he loved.

Once he realized the squirrels could not be defeated, what did he do? He made his birdfeeders into squirrel feeders.

How did the squirrels respond to the challenge?  They did not back down.  We call that perseverance.   They kept on trying even though it was a difficult task.  They devised a plan and took all of the seed.

What did the squirrels do after they found out Mr. Fookwire was lonely?  They gave him a gift—spare change and dressed as birds.


5 minutes

I try to tie-in the lessons from the unit.  

We have learned so much about being an engineer!  It would certainly be an interesting job. First we learned all about the job of engineering.  What did we learn that an engineer does?

The class responds with lots of information.  But I still want to see if they can tell me the main premiss of what it is that they actually do.

We learned about all sorts of things, but what does every engineer do?  Mr. Fookwire did it, the squirrelly squirrels did it, even the engineers that helped build legs for Amy Purdy.  What did they all do?

Two boys answer almost in unison.  They help solve problems! 

Yes!  Engineers work hard to solve problems.  

I pull up the poster on the Smartboard titled What I Have Learned About Engineering Poster.  I have the class fill-in the blanks orally as I as I ask them ALOUD.  Having a sentence frame helps them recall and remember the information learned.  I did start the letters of each word as a clue, since some of my children who struggle with language acquisition need help with recall.  

I will evaluate their understanding by noting if they can fill the blanks in without additional prompting.  They did great, but if they would have had a difficult time, I would go over the engineering cards again and give some additional examples to help them.

 I end the session by having the kiddos repeat after me....

and that's what an engineer does.  He/She solves real problems by following all of these steps!