Fun Wildlife Themed Outdoor STEM Ideas

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International Primary Teacher and Outdoor Learning Specialist, with over ten years experience. I hold an MSc in Outdoor Education and PGDE in Primary Education.

When I first started teaching outdoor learning, I decided to take a tiny hedgehog along to my early years class as a kind of mascot. Within a few minutes, the hedgehog was given a name. Hamish the hedgehog was so popular with the class that he’s remained in my bag for the last two years.

To my surprise, Hamish the Hedgehog was equally popular with my KS2 classes. It then dawned on me that using local woodland creatures such as hedgehogs and squirrels could act as tools to build the children’s enthusiasm for the lessons. I now have a different woodland creature with each class and the children love it.

These creatures allow me to make more connections with learning experiences and also draw attention to the plight of some of these endangered woodland creatures. I have discovered that the characters work particularly well as a stimulus for outdoor STEM and environmental awareness projects. Therefore, these two areas will be the focus of this blog.

Here are some examples of how I have used local woodland creature characters to facilitate lessons.

Within the blog, I have also attached a lesson plan that you can download.


Hamish the Hedgehog

Learners in KS1 and KS2 worked in teams to build houses out of natural materials for Hamish. The houses needed to keep Hamish warm during his winter hibernation. The KS2 children were also given the challenge of making their houses wind and waterproof.

KS2 learner is making a waterproof hedgehog house in the forest. The structure is built using string to tie different materials together and also by pushing sticks into the ground to make the foundations strong.

The houses were built by learners in both forest and playground environments, using the natural materials available. Some learners also made furniture for Hamish and added food sources such as berries and insects.

KS1 learner makes a hedgehog house with easily manipulated natural materials in a playground.

Such was the children’s love for Hamish; I was able to follow up on projects which made learners aware of the challenges that hedgehogs face and why they are an endangered species.

A homework project that I introduced to all the schools to raise awareness of challenges faced by hedgehogs. I gave the children some simple examples of how they could help hedgehogs in their local communities. Such as making leaf piles or adding barriers around garden ponds to stop hedgehogs from falling in.


Learners made posters and presentations about how we can help hedgehogs.

Poster detailing different ways we can help hedgehogs.

Some of the KS2 children also made board games for the early years of children about hedgehog conservation.

Board game made by the KS2 children for early years classes, teaching them the challenges hedgehogs face in the city.


Syd the Red Squirrel

Due to the success of the hedgehog house STEM project, I decided to introduce a new character to the children. I chose Syd the Red Squirrel as red squirrels are often spotted by the children in the local forests close to the schools.

The children built squirrel nests and acorn stores for Syd. They needed to work in a team to build their nests and it had to be suspended a stated distance from the ground.

Learner is making sure their nest is over 50 cm from the ground.


Learners explain their design to the rest of the class and how they achieved the success criteria.


Please see the attached lesson plan that I used for the Squirrel STEM project.



Justin Beaver (named by the children)

I introduced Justin Beaver (named by the children) to the team, as beavers are known as nature’s engineers. The STEM task that I designed was a dam-building task. I bought small plastic containers and challenged my learners to build a dam out of natural materials that slowed the water flow from one end of the container to the other. They could not make the dam more than a certain width, which they had measured, and they used stopwatches to record the time it took for the water to equalise on either side of the dam.

Learners bind mud sticks and leaves together to make a strong dam structure.

The learners followed up their project by presenting about beavers in the Netherlands. I also facilitated discussions with learners concerning the challenges and benefits of reintroducing species into a habitat.


I hope you have enjoyed this post and discovered some new ideas for incorporating props into your learning experiences. For more ideas on using props and toys to encourage learning, please get in touch with me by email, LinkedIn or Twitter.

In future posts, I will share more outdoor STEM activities, such as making mud buildings and creating bamboo catapults and offer ideas of how animal characters can be used as a stimulus for literacy, science and art lessons.

Thanks for reading:)


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