The Big Question

How do animals store their winter cache?

How do animals store their winter cache?

Classroom view

Activity overview

30 mins+
Ages 7 – 9

Science topics:

Animals, including humans

Planning an investigation will really get your class thinking like scientists. How will they investigate winter preparations?

Run the activity

1. Plan an investigation around a Big Question. What do the pupils already know about winter preparations?

  • How do different animals prepare for winter?
  • How might a mild winter alter winter preparations?
  • Which foods are easiest to store over winter?
  • How do animals know where to find the food?

2. How will the group explore the question? Prompt pupils to explain their ideas, qualify them and refine them based on views expressed by other people. What is their plan for the investigation?

3. Ask the class to imagine they had to present their investigation at a school assembly or to their family, how would they show their action plan?

Background science

Many animals store surplus food throughout the year. Autumn is a particularly busy time, as animals prepare to survive the cold winter months when food is difficult to find. Different animals approach caching in different ways such as storing supplies inside trees, hoarding in nests, burying them in the ground or even by immobilising live prey with toxins.

Grey squirrels ‘scatterhoard’ nuts and seeds by burying them in ones and twos in shallow pits dug in the ground. These caches are often located close together and any that are forgotten about will germinate come the spring. Red squirrels sometimes store acorns or hazelnuts in tree hollows known as ‘acorn larders’ and store fungi wedged in branches which, once dry, can last through the winter.

Grey or red, these intelligent creatures use their incredible physical agility to climb, balance, and leap their way to gathering their hoard and their excellent sense of smell helps them to locate their hidden snacks when supplies are scarce come wintertime.

Take it further

As a starter, you could watch our video, Squirrelling away, to introduce squirrels. Watch this BBC Bitesize video to find out how squirrels collect nuts, source some extra facts for your class about the Surprising Ways Animals Stock up for Winter in this article on the Treehugger website. 

Image credit: Squirrel sits in the tree hollow by Malgorzata Surawska via Shutterstock SL