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The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Project Squirrel is a way for kids to do research on local squirrels. Collecting data is simple: Walk down a street and record the number and type of squirrels at regular intervals. If your streets are set up like a grid kids can just collect data at every intersection. Once kids collect the data, they enter it into the website by filling out a form that asks for their zip code and email address. Users can choose not to include their email address and their data will still be accepted. Involvement can range from entering data one time to volunteering to collect data regularly as part of a service project.
What's it about?
PROJECT SQUIRREL uses squirrel observations to help kids understand the ecology of the Chicago area ecosystem along with other parts of the United States. Users collect and report data about the location and number of grey and fox squirrels. Project Squirrel also provides directions for how to set up feeding stations at your home. Kids set up multiple locations with varied levels of risk for the squirrels. Then they collect information about where the squirrels feed more often, weighing risks with the benefit of the food.
Is it any good?
Project Squirrel may not be as visually appealing as the more popular citizen science site, Project Noah, but it does provide kids with opportunities that move beyond simply counting and locating squirrels. Kids can follow detailed instructions for setting up data gathering stations to observe squirrel behavior in food gathering. Site reports on data from thousands of users presents interesting conclusions. It would be nice if kids could see the raw data from all users and watch how it grows in real time. This would give kids the opportunity to form their own conclusions from the data.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why squirrels are good animals to investigate. For example, they are easy to see because they are out during the day and require resources that lots of other animals need too. If our squirrel population is dropping what does that tell us about other animals?
Families can also talk about ways we can protect squirrels and other animals. What choices are you making that might impact the squirrels?
For families who want to take part in conservation and protect the environment, check out our Going Green Online list of websites.
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