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Scaredy Squirrel

by Mélanie Watt


Scaredy Squirrel explores questions about the value of being prepared, the origins of fear, and the importance of new experiences.

Scaredy Squirrel loves his daily schedule! He likes doing the same thing day after day; and if it was his choice, he would never leave the safety of his tree–it is way too dangerous out there! But not to worry, if danger ever does come he is fully prepared with his emergency kit. Every day he just watches and watches and makes sure there is no danger coming toward his tree. But one day his worst nightmare comes true! Danger! Scaredy is thrown into the unfamiliar, but finds himself pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Read aloud video by Shon’s Stories

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

Scaredy Squirrel presents several philosophical themes. The issue of familiar and unfamiliar experiences is a theme that everyone has to face sometime in their life. This can cause anxiety and fear toward elements of the unknown, and it is often easier to stick to your daily routine and habits. However, it is often necessary to make changes to your routine if a situation arises that pushes you out of your comfort zone.

Scaredy Squirrel prefers to live his life according to a set routine every day. People can relate to this because it is simpler to follow a daily schedule than to challenge yourself with something new each day. This is a safe lifestyle; it does not involve a lot of risk because you do not have to step out of your comfort zone. However, there are always going to be situations that are out of your control, no matter how much you prepare for it. Scaredy Squirrel had an emergency kit to which he had ready at access in preparation for unknown situations. Though when an unexpected situation did arise, Scaredy Squirrel dropped the kit and had to face his fear of the unknown. Is it always beneficial to be prepared? Are there any situations where it would be to one’s disadvantage?

The unknown is a common source of fear for many people. In Scaredy Squirrel, he was terrified of the possibilities of which he was unaware. He created irrational fears, such as killer bees, tarantulas, sharks, germs, and green Martians; because he wanted to justify his fear of the unknown. Another self-defense method was how he set up a schedule and lived religiously by it, thereby creating an environment where he never put himself in a vulnerable situation. How do we create these safe environments? Today we often face fears and create barriers between ourselves and the unknown. People would much rather stay in their comfort zone than extend into an environment that they could not control. People find it hard to put themselves in a vulnerable situation. Why do you think this is?

Why is it important to try new things? In Scaredy Squirrel, once he was pushed out of his comfort zone and forced to do things differently than he was used to, he discovered that he really enjoyed it. He also learned new things about himself that he would have never found out without trying. He finds out that the unknown is not as scary as he thought it was. It is only when you step out of your comfort zone and face your fears head on that you are able to grow and develop as a person. Why is it important to grow and develop as a person? What are some reasons you think it is important to step out of your comfort zone?

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

Being Prepared

  1. Why do you think having a set routine is a good idea? Are there any negatives to doing the same thing every day?
  2. Do you have a set routine? What types of things do you do every single day?
  3. What types of things do you have to be prepared for? Do you think it is important that you prepare?
  4. Are there any things you cannot be prepared for? Would you fear those things if they actually happened to you?
  5. Can you over prepare? When you over prepare, do you tend to create irrational fears toward the situation you are preparing for? Why?

Being Scared

  1. What scares you? Why does this scare you?
  2. How do you feel when you are scared?
  3. What things do you do to help make you less scared?
  4. Why do you think people have fears?
  5. How can people be scared of something they have never experienced? Are you scared of anything you have never experienced? Why?

Trying New Things

  1. Do you like to try new things? Why do you think that is?
  2. Why do you think Scaredy Squirrel feels so good when he tries something new?
  3. What are some things you wouldn’t want to change in your life?
  4. Have you ever tried something that you were afraid of but realized it was not as bad as expected? Did those fears, that you thought logical at the time, seem irrational after the experience?

Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion archived here. Edited June 2020 by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.

Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our Resources page.

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About the Prindle Institute

As one of the largest collegiate ethics institutes in the country, the Prindle Institute for Ethics’ uniquely robust national outreach mission serves DePauw students, faculty and staff; academics and scholars throughout the United States and in the international community; life-long learners; and the Greencastle community in a variety of ways. In 2019, the Prindle Institute partrnered with Thomas Wartenberg and became the digital home of his Teaching Children Philosophy discussion guides.

Further Resources

Some of the books on this site may contain characterizations or illustrations that are culturally insensitive or inaccurate. We encourage educators to visit the Association for Library Service to Children’s resource guide for talking to children about issues of race and culture in literature. They also have a guide for navigating tough conversations.  PBS Kids’ set of resources for talking to young children about race and racism might also be useful for educators.

Philosophy often deals with big questions like the existence of a higher power or death. Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our resources page.

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