Animals are fascinating to watch. Their behaviors amaze us, amuse us, and sometimes confuse us. We wonder: What is the animal doing? How does it do the things it does? Why does it behave that way?
Scientists conduct behavior watches to gather the information they need to understand an animal’s behavior, and, sometimes, to help us better understand human behavior. In this activity you will learn how Smithsonian scientists carry out animal behavior studies. Then you will observe some animal behavior yourself, record your observations, and analyze and evaluate your findings.
To design a good research project, first decide what question about an animal’s behavior you wish to answer through your behavior watch. A good testable question for a squirrel behavior watch is, do squirrels spend most of their time gathering food?
Next, decide what behaviors you will observe and record, and carefully define what actions are characteristic of each behavior. Some typical behaviors include resting, grooming, eating or drinking, searching for food (foraging), and socializing.
In your classroom, work in small groups to share your knowledge about squirrel behaviors and talk about what you want to learn from a squirrel behavior watch. Your teacher will give each group a student worksheet, “Building Background Knowledge,” to guide your discussions. You will use your written responses on the worksheet again after viewing the video and after the outdoor activity.