Small mammal study

Opening small mammal hotels

Learning outcome

To understand reasons for the adaptations of different small mammals.

Key Stubbington focus

Environment - mammals

  • For Key Stage 2
  • Duration 2½ hours with short break
Success criteria
  • I can identify the adaptations of a small mammal
  • I can explain why the mammal is adapted in this way
  • I can compare the adaptations of 2 different small mammal species
  • I can identify sexual and reproductive difference between males and female mammals
Session plan


Children return to the location of the hotels they placed the previous day. Session leader will instruct children on how to carry the hotels and explain health and safety points mentioned above.

Part 1

Hotels with closed doors are opened (one at a time). Mammals are transferred by the session leader into transparent polythene bags to allow for closer observation.

For each mammal found, several pieces of information are recorded, starting with species.

Children are asked to indentify some of the adaptations of the mammals found which make them suitable for living in their habitat.

A series of measurements are taken by the children including body length, tail length and weight. How to identify the sex of the small mammal is then discussed with the aid of anatomical diagrams. (level of vocabulary and depth of discussion dependent on age of children). Male and female sexual organs are named and reproduction in mammals is discussed.

The above is followed for each of the hotels with closed doors. If a different type of small mammal is found, the adaptations can be compared using the live examples (e.g. a mouse and a vole). If this is not possible, the differences will be discussed using diagrams/description. Session leader will instruct children on how to release the mammals - this will be done at the end of part 2.

Part 2

Teacher led. Children return to the classroom to sketch and/or annotate diagrams to show the adaptations of one or more of the small mammal they attracted. Following this, children should release the mammals (with supervision by visiting staff) at the location where they collected them from as instructed at the end of part 1.


As children release the mammals, discuss why it is important for them to be returned to the same habitat that they were found in.

Less able children: can use the pre-written adaptations to label a picture of a mouse or vole during the second part of the session.

Prompt sheet for lower ability readers.

Vocabulary, questioning and application varied to age and ability of the group.

More able children: can describe more detailed adaptations of a vole and mouse and will be able to make comparisons between the two.

Use un-annotated diagrams.

Previsit activities

How are animals adapted to their environments? Research some examples from different habitats.

Follow up activities

  • Any data collected by schools will be typed up and given to school staff on the final day of your visit along with data from other schools for the past few years. This can be used for data handling back at school. Data is also available in an Excel spreadsheet for ICT
  • Discuss other mammals which could live in the conservation area – do they have similar adaptations?
  • Attract mammals to school grounds e.g. by constructing a hedgehog hotel
Health and safety checks
  • Hotel opening (part 1) led by a trained member of Stubbington staff
  • Children do not have direct contact with mammals
  • Should a mammal escape, children should sit and quiet with feet on chair rung/off the floor
  • Children to keep hands away from faces and wash hands immediately after the session
  • Children should carry hotels with bare hands rather than gloves - tape can be provided for any open cuts
  • Check for phobias/fears of small mammals
  • Check for airborne nut allergies (contained in mammal food)
  • When mammals are released, boxes should be held on the ground with the lid facing away