• Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

    Black Canyon Of The Gunnison

    National Park Colorado

Who Goes There?

National Park Service Mission

...to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Curecanti National Recreation Area Outreach Education is committed to: Creating an awareness and fostering an appreciation for the mission of the National Park Service and the natural, cultural, and historic resources of Curecanti National Recreation Area and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.


Curriculum enhancing activities designed to complement national and state content standards across a variety of disciplines.

Title: "Who Goes There?"

Grade level:
First Grade

Time length:
60 minutes

Subject areas: Science, mathematics

Teacher: Two NPS Education Specialists

Colorado Content Standards: Science: (1) Students understand the processes of scientific investigation and design, conduct, communicate about, and evaluate such investigations. (3.1) Students know and understand the characteristics of living things, the diversity of life, and how things interact with each other and their environment. (3.4) Students know and understand how organisms change over time in terms of biological evolution and genetics.

Mathematics: (4) Students use geometric concepts, properties, and relationships in problem solving situations and communicate the reasoning used in solving these problems

Theme: Animals cannot always be seen, but clues they leave behind reveal their presence.

NPS focus:
Public Law 39-535 (Organic Act),

Public Law 95-250 (Redwood National Park Expansion Act),

Vail Agenda Education Committee Report (Strategic Goal #2; Action Plan 16)and (Strategic Goal #3; Action Plan 52,62),

Curecanti and Black Canyon Themes: Natural Resources/Wildlife

Environmental concepts:
Everything is connected to everything else (interrelationships). Everything must fit how and where it lives (adaptations).

Environmental learning hierarchy: Analogies, sensory awareness, problem solving

Materials: Mystery Tracks worksheet; pencils; 8 animal track stamps; 8 ink pads; 4 tables (2 stations per table); 8 numbered labels to mark stations (1-4 and 1-4); animal pictures; animal name cards; Plexiglas shapes of a square, rectangle, circle, oval, trapezoid, triangle and diamond; deer and sheep skulls with antlers and horns; squirrel fur; coyote tail; feathers; bones; bird nests; chewed beaver log; story book (see below).

Robertson, Kayo. (1986). Signs Along the River. Boulder, CO. Robert Rinehart Inc.


Knowledge level:
Students will be able to provide three examples of different animal signs and the geometrical shapes related to those signs. Students will be able to identify three Colorado animals using tracks or other clues.

Comprehension level:
Students will be able to state one way that predators track and catch their prey.


When I was about your age, I used to love to wander around in the forest or in the grasslands, to see what I could find. Sometimes I went on nature walks with my parents or with my friends. Have any of you ever gone on a nature walk? Nature walks can be a lot of fun! I used to look for wildlife, and sometimes I would see a moose with big antlers on its head, or I'd see a turtle, a fox, or a frog. I was always excited to see animals. But sometimes when I went outside exploring, I didn't see any animals, but I knew that they had been there. Some animals sleep during the day and are awake at night. They're called nocturnal animals. Since I sleep at night and go on nature walks during the day, do you think I'll see any of these nocturnal animals? Probably not. Animals can also hear you coming, so they may hide or leave before you ever get a chance to see them during the day. How do you think I might know that an animal has been there, if I don't see them there? I can be a detective, looking for clues that they left behind. Does anyone know what kind of a clue an animal might leave behind? Footprints in the mud or snow, a clump of fur, a feather, scat, chewed bark, etc. (show each item separately and talk about it). Ask if they know what animal left each clue. (Don't pass the items around, or you'll lose the students' attention. Leave a few minutes after the lesson for several students at a time to come up to the table and touch the items).

We can use the clues that we find in nature to determine how animals interact with each other. Let's discover how to identify animal tracks and other clues, and how animals track each other."


Shapes in Nature

"Do items in nature have shapes? Sure they do. What shape is this robin's nest?" Display bird nest for all students to see. "Let's review some shapes." Hang the laminated shapes on the board and ask students to identify them. Use an oval, circle, rectangle, square, trapezoid, diamond, and triangle. "Sometimes recognizing the shapes of objects in nature can help us identify what the object is. The track of one animal may have the shape of a triangle, while another may have the shape of a square." Go over nature signs already shown to the children, having them name the shape of the particular item.


See section III and V.


Mystery Tracks

Set up Mystery Tracks stations. At each station, tape the station number and an animal picture. Place animal stamps at proper stations. (Animal stamps should be labeled with station number to avoid confusion.) Place a stamp pad at each station along with a variety of 3 Plexiglas shapes, one of which matches the track at that station. Also place a laminated list of shapes and animal names at each station to help the students with the spelling. Give each child a Mystery Tracks worksheet.

Before instructing the students to get started, do a detailed example of the activity. For example, at the first station, make the print of an animal track on the worksheet. Based on both the picture of the animal taped to that station and the track, decide which animal made the track. Write the name of the animal on the appropriate line. Then, find a Plexiglas form that is a similar shape to the track. Place the Plexiglas form over the track and trace the shape. Write the name of the shape on the line (if you're short on time, students don't need to write the name of the shape on the line).

Once everyone understands the directions, have the teacher assign two or three students to each of the eight stations. Stations will be labeled #1-4 on one side of the classroom and #1-4 on the other side of the classroom. At each station, the students should do as the ranger demonstrated. Students rotate to the next station at leaders' signal. Explain that the students should move to the station with the next higher number, for example, the students at station number "1" will move to station number "2". The students at station number "4" will move to station number "1". Be very clear about the boundary between the two sets of stations. This will avoid a lot of chaos, if properly implemented! Do NOT allow kids to move to next station before EVERYONE is ready and you give the signal. Continue until all students have been to all four stations, and the worksheet is completed.


After completing the activity have students return to their seats or sit in a semicircle around you. "Let's review our mystery tracks sheet. Do tracks made by different animals look the same? Who can name a track that looks like a triangle? Like a rectangle? Etc. We now know that animal tracks are one of the clues we can find in nature, but what are some other ways we know an animal has been in an area without seeing it? (Show examples of animal clues: Bird nests, snakes skin, and owl pellets) What do some of these animal signs tell us about an animal's lifestyle? (e.g. chewed plant=herbivore; an owl pellet with small bones=predator that feeds on small animals; a hole in the ground=dug by animal that lives underground; track showing large claws=digging/predatory animal) Why don't we usually see animals while walking outside? How do you think that a predator finds its prey? (footprints in mud or snow, smells)


Students can look for animal signs around their school playground, home, and park.


After the discussion, gather students in a semicircle to read the book provided in the lesson box. (You may need to skip some pages in the middle if there are time constraints).


Indicate what you judge to have been the strengths of the lesson, what changes you made during the lesson and what changes you would make if you were to teach the unit again.

Did You Know?

Inner Canyon

The temperature at the bottom of Black Canyon is approximately 8 degrees warmer than at the rim.