Finding and collecting animal tracks is a great activity from Nature STEM. How to find and collect animal tracks gives you the tutorial on the detective work and tools you need to see and preserve the evidence of nearby animals.
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Have you ever noticed that middle school students are the most difficult age to round up co-op classes? A few years ago, my daughter and I developed the perfect book class for boys (and adventurous girls). My side of the mountain. We just had to put together the right activities.
This post is not about that all the activities we did with My side of the mountain, but I chose one that I want to share with you today.
Find animal tracks
Wouldn’t it be best to take your group of middle school students on a tracking expedition?
I have spent a lot of time with middle school students and even though they are notorious for their energy, you can do it if you can steer it in the right direction!
But chances are good that the logistics to get your large middle school class on a trip are somewhat unattainable.
Still, you’re excited to find some of your own tracks, aren’t you? Where are good places to find them?
- Muddy spots on a path
- Sand on the beach
- River bank
- Pond edges
In general, you can find traces in any place where it is humid and animals roam the area.
You can also set a “trap” for tracks right in your own garden!
Collect animal tracks
Did you know that you can collect animal tracks?
- make photos– with your camera to record the track
- Make a shape– the way
- Set up tracking boxes– You can leave out the medium so that animals can enter your own garden and collect traces.
And here is where we can just do it to take these middle school students on an excursion without going anywhere. Just set the tracking fields where your group meets and hopefully you’ll be in business the next week.
It’s a good idea to first explore an area to see if it’s a good place to create tracks. If you don’t have one or are empty, get ready with friendly dog or cat prints of you and a pet.
Tracking boxes can be made from a shallow shell filled with damp sand. After all, you have to capture a good impression.
We improvised with the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket and planted it in various places in our garden.
Make a shape out of an animal trail
How cool would it be to create a whole collection of animal tracks that you would leave behind with casts of all kinds of animals?
Collecting traces by making a mold is fairly easy and doesn’t require a lot of setup or cleanup.
- Cut a strip of cardboard– long enough to circle the route on the ground.
- Circle the trail– Make the strip a circle that can circle the track and put it in a circle in the ground
- Prepare the plaster– by adding water and mixing
- Pour the plaster– within the circle above the route
- Let it sit– approx. 30 minutes until the plaster has hardened
- Remove the paper ring– Take the form and remove the paper
- Label the trail– Turn it over and label the shape with the date of manufacture, the location and the lane identification
Identify animal tracks
How do you identify tracks once you find them? We can use several factors to narrow them down. Then use a field guide to finish the job.
- Count the toes– Find a clear track and count the number of toes
- Look for tiny spots– these are the claws of the animal
- Note the shape– Animals have differently shaped paws that can help identify prints
- Note the size– Raccoons and squirrels have traces in the form of hands, but raccoon paws are much larger.
- Consider the place– When trying to decide whether it belongs to a particular animal or not, consider whether the animal lives where you found the trail.
Animal tracking resources
Resources are helpful when you learn something new. There are many websites dedicated to tracking. Ethan, our oldest, once made his own book with animal tracks for his siblings as Christmas gift-laminated cards, ring and everything.
- Field guide to animal tracks– This book is a good start for your tracking identification. It is a good size to take with you on trips!
- Tracks, scats and characters– For younger children, this activity book offers ideas for children in the field
- Large traces, small traces after animal prints– a science book to read and find out. This series is always informative and wonderful for younger children.
- Tracking & the art of seeing: How to read animal tracks & signs– Information about the behavior and habitat of over 50 animal species and shows you how to identify animals based on their tracks, tail patterns, droppings, caves, scratches and other signs
- Tracks and trail craft– Fully illustrated guide to identifying animal tracks in the forest, field, yard and back yard.
- Animal and bird tracks: Sierra Club knowledge cards– a card game with pictures of animal and bird tracks as well as information about each animal and where you could find the tracks.
- Wildwood tracking– This part is part of a survival site and contains lots of information about persecution and zodiac. You can even find quizzes that test your knowledge of tracks. This site provides instructions on how to create and use tracking boxes.
My side of the mountain Class was a middle school hit. The kind of fun that can be repeated with just the right adventure book.
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