If you live in a rural area, or near a park, you’ve undoubtedly observed the annual and ritualistic behavior of squirrels burying their nuts. When the weather turns chilly, these bushy-tailed little creatures begin preparation for their annual Darwinian scavenger hunt.
Scientists themselves aren’t sure of everything that goes into this stashing/locating behavior, but they have some ideas. For one, scientists have observed squirrels frequently burying and reburying the same nuts time and time again. This kind of odd behavior raises a lot of questions for squirrel enthusiasts (yes, their are such people)—the most pressing being, why do they do this, and how do the squirrels find their nuts once they are buried?
The answer is, for the most part, they don’t.
A study done at the University of Richmond found that squirrels fail to recover up to 74% of the nuts they bury (see, I told you there were squirrel enthusiasts). That means that they don’t see the fruits of nearly 3/4ths of their labor. CRAZY!
Did they forget where they put them? Did they have an overabundance of food? Are they on a diet? Is there foul play at work?
Scientists believe that the behavior of "re-burying" not only helps keep a fresh memory of the nut’s location, but also combats graft and theft. It turns out that the squirrel community is rampant with nut theft. Squirrels can lose as much as 25% of their cached nuts to thieves!
Whether the loss is due to absentmindedness or nefarious intent, it must be frustrating for squirrels to lose their carefully hidden nuts. After all, they put in the time and effort to locate, curate, and bury said nut. This type of work is not for the feign of heart. These little furry creatures work hard for their money!
Being a music teacher is a little like being a squirrel. And no, it's not because we get paid peanuts.
It's because we tend to work alone and possess a laser like focus and work ethic. IIt's because each and every fall we begin again anew, with no carryover and a daunting task. It's because we must be mindful of the here and now while still planning for the future. It's because we teach, re-teach, and teach again, always circling back to ensure that nugget of knowledge is still buried within each child. It's because we trust those around us, but are mindful that sometimes bad choices are made. And, because regardless of our heart's desires, 74% of what we teach will likely be forgotten.
But our efforts are NOT in vain.
Scientists credit the squirrel with a great deal of the greenery on our planet. It turns out that the misplacing of so many acorns (the seeds of oak trees) is in part responsible for forest regeneration as these buried acorns eventually grow into full oak trees!
The squirrel will not be around long enough to see or know his impact or efforts, but is truly making an impact.
And like the squirrel, you may not be around your students long enough to see the impact of your efforts, but please know that you are helping to create a forrest.
Yes, music teachers and squirrels are more alike than we might want to admit. While others look at us and think we are nuts, we know we’re really saving the planet.
Have a great week!