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Get Outside and Start Building Like Our Wildlife

With most of the leaves gone, you might start to notice something super fun outside — all the animal homes!

A squirrel on a tree branch next to a drey.
A squirrel drey in a tree. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Come November, bird nests, squirrel dreys and skunk dens are suddenly all around. Can you copy their architectural style?

Adventure in the field

Go outside and look for the animal homes around you! You can go for a nice, easy stroll around your neighborhood or plan a hike in a forest preserve. Your backyard is a good spot to look after school, and don’t forget to search the playground at recess.

How is your memory? It might be a good idea to bring a notebook to write down notes or draw a picture of the home. You can also use a camera or video to record any animal dwellings you find.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Was the house high up in the sky? How high?

  • Was it underground?

  • Did it look deep or shallow?

  • Was there a door or was it open to the elements (aka outside)?

  • What materials did the animal use to make it?

  • Based on the size, was it a big animal or a small one?

  • Did they have lots of roommates or was it a home for one?

  • Are they still hanging around or has it been abandoned?

Turn it into a game! How many animal homes can you find? How many types? It can be a game you play yourself or something you can do with your friends or family.


Words to know

Architectural: Relating to the art of practice of designing or constructing buildings.

Drey: The nest of a squirrel.


Have fun while looking for these animal homes. Just remember that animals might still be using them. You don’t want to scare them off by getting too close or accidently messing up their house. You wouldn’t want anyone doing that to your home, would you?

Do the research

You did the field work. Nice job! Now you can look up your findings online or turn to books. What exactly did you find?

Do you have a favorite animal? You can also look up the homes of the animals you like. Were you surprised to realize that one of the homes you’ve already seen outside was built by your favorite animal? The creatures you investigate can be animals that you might find here in Will County or you can look up an animal from far away.

Is there anything cool you learned about how they build their homes? Do they lift an amazing amount of weight to build it? Are they expert weavers? Do they chew trees or plants to make new materials? Do they use the homes of other animals to create their own space?

Build the home

Now it’s time for some construction. Follow these steps to get started.

1. Come up with a plan. You can just make the plan mentally or you can sketch out a design on paper or a tablet.

2. Gather your supplies. Use as much as you can find outside — that’s where the animals found it, too! Just don’t forget to ask for permission to gather from other people’s yards. And remember, you can’t collect from the forest preserves.

3. Go outside and build your animal home! This can be done inside, too, but isn’t fresh air the best?

The building process can be as simple as gathering a bunch of sticks together in the shape of a bald eagle’s nest and adding moss and leaves to line the inside of their nest. Or you can get as elaborate as you like!

What did you discover from this experience? Is your animal house fit for the animal to live in? Would you switch homes? Have fun and happy building, young architect!


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