Understanding the World: Hedgehog SOS
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
In the past decade more than half of rural hedgehogs and a third of those in towns and cities have become extinct. Judith Harries provides ideas for educating children to ensure that these spiky friends survive.
Judith Harries, teacher and author
In the past decade more than half of rural hedgehogs and a third of town and city hedgehogs have been lost and it is possible that our spiky friend will disappear for good.
Share some stories about hedgehogs. Try some spiky art activities and think about practical ways children can help to look after these creatures. All these activities will help children to develop more understanding of the world and in particular – ‘the need to respect and care for the natural environment and all living things.’
Playing and exploring
- Children learn lots of facts about hedgehogs and how to care for them
- They have a go at making an illustrated fact sheet about hedgehogs
- They play ‘Curl up, stay still’ and move like a hedgehog
Watch the award-winning film Hedgehog Close on YouTube, made by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (see Resources), and talk about hedgehogs with the children. Have any of them seen a hedgehog in their garden? Explain that hedgehogs are nocturnal which makes them harder to spot. Talk about other animals that are nocturnal – owls, badgers, bats, foxes and moths.
What do they already know about hedgehogs? Read some facts (non-fiction) and story (fiction) books (see Resources) about hedgehogs and talk about what they have learned. Help children to write and illustrate a fact sheet about hedgehogs with a picture and two top facts.
How can I help Roly the Hedgehog?
Share this simple picture book that illustrates how easy it is to provide safe spaces for hedgehogs.
Some hedgehogs hibernate which makes them one of only three animals in the UK that do during winter. Talk about hibernating and how the hedgehogs find a hole to curl up in and sleep in a dormant state until spring. Why do children think hedgehogs or other animals might choose to hibernate?
Hedgehogs are particularly hungry when they wake up from a long winter of hibernation. They enjoy cat or dog food and a bowl of water – not milk (hedgehogs are lactose intolerant). Make sure that you leave suitable food or water near the hedgehog haven (see below).
Curl up, stay still
Hedgehogs have more than 5000 spines on their backs that they use for protection. They can also curl up into a ball if there are predators such as badgers around. Try this movement activity to help children imagine what it would be like to be a hedgehog. Ask them to find a space to sit. Invite them to crawl around on all fours like hedgehogs as you shake a tambourine. When you tap the tambourine, they are in danger and must curl up tight into a ball, just like a hedgehog. Can they stay still until they hear the shake resume? Who can make the best curled up hedgehog shape?
- Children look out for hedgehogs in the wild and in a game
- They persevere and keep on trying when things seem difficult
- They work with a partner to experience moving around at night
Log your hog
As hedgehogs are endangered animals it is important to keep records of where they are spotted. Hedgehog's Street BIG Hedgehog Map shows all recorded sightings of hedgehogs (dead or alive) in the UK since 2015.
If you are fortunate to see a hedgehog go to www.bighedgehogmap.org to log your hog. Play a game of ‘Log your Hog’. Place some small pictures of hedgehogs, pinecone hedgehogs (with googly eyes), or toy hedgehogs, around your setting inside or outside and see how many the children can find. Ask them to leave the pictures/models there for others to spot. Can they keep a tally or log of how many hogs they see?
Can you see in the dark?
Ask children if they can see in the dark. Try to create a dark space using drapes or curtains or ask children to try at home. How many things can they see, even if it's only an outline or shape? Ask them to work with a partner and take turns to wear a blindfold and move around as though in the dark (safely). As hedgehogs are nocturnal, they can see in the dark but mainly use their hearing and smell to find their way about.
Creating and thinking critically
- Children create posters to inform others about hedgehogs
- They make hedgehog bread rolls and share them for a snack
- They use a variety of art activities to create hedgehogs
Help children to design posters to tell others what they have learned about how to help hedgehogs. Display the posters around your setting.
Make some bread dough with the children and divide it up into small balls. Let the children shape the balls into hedgehog rolls with a point at one end. Use scissors to cut the dough into spines and add raisins for eyes. Bake and share together for a snack.
Hedgehog art and craft ideas
Try some different hedgehog related art activities with the children and use them to create a hedgehog display. Add the posters and factsheets to help inform other children and staff in your school.
Use brown paint to create hedgehogs from individual handprints. There won't be quite as many as 5000 spines but never mind! Ask children to add a button nose and eyes using black paint. Combine the handprints into a giant spiky hedgehog. Provide a printed outline of a hedgehog. Let children use a fork to print spines using lots of different colours. How many spines can they give their hedgehog? Let them use clay or playdough to create model hedgehogs. Add matchsticks, small twigs or seeds for spines.
How Can I help Roly the Hedgehog? By Frances Rodgers
Hello Hedgehog by Laura Buller Say Hi to Hedgehogs! by Jane McGuinness
Mrs Tiggywinkle by Beatrix Potter
The Very Helpful Hedgehog by Rosie Wellesley (and other stories)
It Was a Cold, Dark Night by Tim Hopgood
Sleep Well, Little Jack by Micha Klann
The Hug by Eoin McLaughlin
This organisation is dedicated to helping and protecting hedgehogs native to the UK.
It focuses on educational projects to help reverse the decline of hedgehogs in the wild.
Take the Hedgehog Garden Challenge to celebrate this charity's 10th birthday. Do 10 things in your garden to help hedgehogs. Go to the website to find out what you can do.
Saving Britain's hedgehogs project.
This is the world's busiest, free, wildlife hospital that cares for over 12,000 animals including hedghogs every year.
Access to YouTube and other websites; paper; pencils; crayons; felt pens; tambourine; small pictures, models or soft toy hedgehogs; drapes; curtains; blindfolds; poster materials; ingredients for hedgehog bread rolls; sugar paper; scissors; outline of hedgehogs; forks; different coloured paints; clay; playdough; matchsticks; materials for hedgehog haven
This is an idea sponsored by the BHPS (see Resources) as part of Hedgehog awareness week (2-8 May 2021). Provide a hedgehog access hole, 13cm by 13cm, in the bottom of fences or hedges so hedgehogs can get into your garden. You will be part of a hedgehog highway! Bury a small plastic or wooden storage box under a mound of logs or rocks and half fill with dry leaves or straw. Leave a tunnel for the hedgehogs to access the nest. Always take care to check compost heaps or areas of long grass before mowing in case a hedgehog has moved in!
Use talk, books and films to find out about hedgehogs and then produce simple factsheets – supporting both communication, language and literacy skills. Can children answer simple ‘why’ questions? Note how they find different ways to move in the ‘Curl up, stay still’ game such as crawling, curling, rolling, and stretching. This will encourage physical development.
Key learning points
- Children talk about what they see, using an expanding vocabulary
- They begin to understand about the need to respect and care for animals
- They understand the effect of changing seasons on the natural world
- They understand the key features of an animal