Winter is a great time to go looking for wildlife! Most animals like to hide and can be difficult to observe. Luckily, they often leave clues about themselves behind that we can find. One of the easiest clues to find are footprints or tracks. By finding and observing animal tracks you can learn a lot about the animals that left them, such as, what kind of animal it was, where they were going, how many there were and what they were doing. A whole wildlife story can be told by looking at footprints! Winter is a wonderful time for looking for animal tracks because snow captures footprints well.
Take children on a walk around the schoolyard, backyard, or local park to look for animal tracks. If you are fortunate enough to have a bird feeder nearby, that is a wonderful spot to find bird tracks. Also look for squirrel tracks next to trees and deer tracks at the edge of wooded areas. Encourage the children to share their observations.
Ask: What kind of animal do you think the tracks are from? What do they think the animal was doing? Where was it going? Why? As a class, make up stories about what the animal was doing and where it was going. When you get back to the classroom record your collective story and have the children do the illustrations. Collect the bits of story and save it as a new classroom book! (Don’t forget to have the children observe their own tracks in the snow too!)
Make tracks of your own! All you need is a dark colored bed sheet and baby powder. Lay out the sheet. At one end, sprinkle a pile of baby powder. Have the children walk into the powder and then across the sheet. Shake out the sheet and start again without socks and shoes, or skip / hop / run to see the difference in the type of track the children leave behind. Were everyone’s tracks the same? Why or why not?
For snack time make “track crackers” with spread (cream cheese, hummus, or something spreadable), crackers and veggies, chow mein noodles, and dried fruit. Arrange bits of carrots, noodles and / or raisins to make tracks on your crackers!
For more fun ideas use Project WILD’s Growing Up WILD “Tracks!”
- Iowa DNR field technician Paul Frese helped provides some basic track identifying information. An animal tracks guide is also included.
- Learn more about tracks in this “Who goes there?” post from the Gladys Black Environmental Education Project.