Friday, March 18, 2011

Animal Tracks

Take some time this weekend and get outside with the kids. Teach them about the local wildlife in your area. Even if you just go to a local park there are probably going to be some animals that have left tracks. Below are some great links for animal track information. Find the animals in your area and see if you can find tracks for them.

If your kids are very young start with the basic art of making prints at home. Give them some paper, crayons, markers, paint, stamp pads and play dough. The kids can trace their hand and foot prints, make fingerprints with the paint or stamp pads. Make a round disc with the play dough and make an impression of their own hands and/or feet. Once they understand about their own hand and foot prints, hand them some small plastic animals and let them make impressions of the toy's feet in the play dough and look at it. You can also see our blog post of September 3, 2010 where we showed how to make homemade fossils.

The photo above is a dinosaur footprint, you will not find these but it is a good picture to show the kids.

Next, head outdoors to find some real animal tracks. If you find some good tracks in the mud or sand you can even make a cast of the impressions. To make plaster casts you will need: Plaster of Paris (inexpensive at home supply stores), bottle of water, plastic spoon and bowl, paper towels, small trowel and a bag to carry your supplies in. Once you find a suitable track, pour about 1/2 cup Plaster of Paris in the bowl and add enough water to make it pourable but not too runny. Use your spoon to mix it up. Once it is mixed, tap the sides of the bowl to get the air bubbles out. Next you will want to spoon the mixture into the impression and let it set up for about 30 minutes. Next, use a small trowel to dig under and around the impression. Take it home and allow it to dry overnight. The next day you can brush off the dirt or sand. To get a really good look at it, the kids may prefer to paint the impression. The paint will go into the little lines and really bring out the details of the impression.

Next, I looked around online and found some great animal track pictures at Bear Tracker's Animal Tracks Den. Above is a picture of the front and hind feet of a gray squirrel. You can just pick the type of animal and the animal's name and she shows you the tracks. This is a great resource to use to print out the tracks and compare them to any you may see near your home.

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