- 60 minutes
- Group Size:
- Up to 24
OverviewStudents become wildlife detectives using animal tracks and other signs to determine the presence of wildlife. Use of geometric shapes helps students identify and classify common animal signs found in nature.
Students learn about local wildlife and clues that animals can leave behind. By comparing shapes to animal track stamps, students can distinguish local animal tracks.
Stations will need to be set up prior to lesson in the classroom (2 sets of 4 different stations). Each station consists of an animal track stamp, ink pad, 3 traceable shapes (1 "correct," 2 "incorrect"), a spelling key, and the picture of the corresponding animal. Leave out enough track worksheets for each student to have their own.
Track Story Samples (10 copies), Animal Track/Shape worksheet (one per student), "Who goes there" bin (white imprints, packets of animals, pictures), snowshoe, flipper, Whose Tracks Are These? by Jim Nail
III. ANTICIPATORY SET Begin by discussing some of the animals you can sometimes see when out exploring in Colorado near your home, hiking in parks, or even near your school. Mention how sometimes when you're out in the woods, you don't always see animals for different reasons. Some animals are nocturnal, and since we hike during the day, we probably will not be able to see these animals because they are sleeping. Just because you don't see animals, doesn't mean you can't find clues left behind from them.
IV. TEACHING PROCEDURE Animal Clues Ask students what clues animals might leave behind in the woods. As students provide answers, pass around fur, feathers, scat, owl pellets, and antlers to show students the clues that animals often leave behind. (If a student answers tracks, explain that they are correct but you will be talking all about tracks soon.) Tracks/Shapes Another kind of clue an animal can leave behind is a track. Just like when we get out of a pool and can see our wet footprints or when we step in mud, animals leave tracks behind. Since animals are different shapes and sizes, we can use their tracks to figure out what type of animal walked or ran through an area. Tell students that they will be looking at several different tracks. Compare/Contrast: Show the students the coyote, wolf, mountain lion, bobcat, and deer tracks. Compare and contrast them (size, shape, claw marks, etc.) Show pictures of animals alongside tracks. Show coyote and mountain lion prints; talk about the difference between cat (retractable claws) and dog (non-retractable) tracks. Take out the raccoon track. Show the photo of the raccoon with its paws in the water. Discuss how raccoons use their hands: sensing food in the water at night, able to grasp objects, can untie knots. Track Story: Use track story to have students determine what happened in the picture. Ask students what animals are in the picture, was the animal running or walking, and whether the animals interacted. Have students discuss the picture in pairs and then share details with the group after. Shapes: Sometimes tracks can still look similar— there were many good answers for the "predator" in the animal track picture. A good way to identify a track that you are not sure of is by looking at the shape of the track. Shapes play an important role in tracking animals in the winter time when there is snow. Snow doesn't leave as clear of a track, and sometimes scientists, hunters, and animal detectives like you have to use their imagination to match a track to a shape like a triangle or circle to help figure out which animals has been nearby. Show shapes and have class guess the shape. Track Stamping Activity (desk stations) Tell students that they will be doing an activity to look at how tracks of Colorado wildlife look similar and different based on shape. Describe the track activity and show the completed example sheet. At each station students will look at a picture of an animal, stamp its print, find the matching shape to trace over the print, write the name of the animal using a key that helps with spelling, and write the name of the shape they traced over the track. Refer to the shapes you hung up earlier to remind them of resources they can use to help. There is no right or wrong answer to the shapes—it's what you think it is and what is going to help you remember the track later. Ask them to go grab pencils from their desk and to return to the carpet standing. Put in groups and send them to stations. Rotate groups through stations and walk around to help. (If the class is young, give instructions to help move the process along-- pass the stamp and shapes quickly, write the animal name while waiting for the stamp, etc.) Adaptation Discussion Ask students if they found tracks that were circles, squares, triangles, etc. Discuss that tracks are different shapes because animals' feet are used for different purposes. Beaver: Ask students what shape the beaver print was. Hold up the beaver print for students who did not go to the beaver station. It's a triangle. Have students guess why the beaver foot looks like it does. (If students need help: can hint that beavers live in the water.) Discuss why the beaver foot looks the way it does: beavers need to stand up on their back feet to eat (show chewed log) and use their front paws to turn the wood. Feet are triangle shaped so they can swim through the water. Hold up the flipper, ask students how this is like the beaver print and how people use flippers (allows people to swim through water more quickly). Porcupine: Ask students what shape the porcupine print was. Hold up the porcupine print for students who did not go to that station. It's an oval. Have the students guess why the track looks like it does. The porcupine lives in snowy habitats. Because porcupines are light, but their paws are big compared to their body size, weight is distributed over a larger surface area. It needs a big, long paw to walk on top of the snow. This prevents the animal from sinking in too deep. Hold up the snowshoe; ask students how the snowshoe is like the porcupine's feet and how people use it (helps distribute weight so people can walk on top of the snow like the porcupine).
VI. CLOSURE Tell students they have learned that animals have different shaped tracks because each animal's feet have formed to help it survive in its specific habitat. We, as people, have learned from these animals to be able to better function in habitats we would otherwise not be able to. Conclude by telling students that they can come see these animals and the clues that they have left at Black Canyon and Curecanti.
Ask questions throughout the program to determine student understanding. If there is time at the end of the lesson, read a few pages from Whose Tracks are These? By: Jim Nail.
Curecanti National Recreation Area contains examples of ecosystems characteristic of native Colorado as well as a human-made reservoir system; these habitats provide outstanding opportunities to experience and appreciate a diversity of life. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park protects fragile resources along a vertical spectrum from canyon floor to dark skies.