Lesson Plan

Who Passed This Way?

Overall Rating

Add your review
Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Eighth Grade
Biodiversity, Biology: Animals, Wildlife Biology
1 hour
Group Size:
Up to 36
in the park
National/State Standards:
Colorado Science: 4th grade 2.1
tracks, plaster, casting


Students will be able to identify common animal tracks and learn how to make plaster casts of them.


Students will be able to identify common animal tracks and learn how to make plaster casts of them.


Looking for evidence is one method of determining what types of animals are around, especially since many are nocturnal. Signs such as burrows, nests, droppings, or food litter can be identified-but the easiest signs to interpret are often animal tracks.

Animal tracks can be the basis for several types of investigations:

  • Identifying the tracks can simply help you identify which animal passed by.
  • Studying the cadence or gaiting of tracks can help decipher what the animal was doing.
  • Wildlife biologists can estimate population size by the counting of tracks during a specific length of time.
  • Habitat requirements of individual animals may be learned about by finding their tracks in certain areas and not finding them in others.

Track hunting is best in the early morning since many animals are nocturnal. First thing in the morning, you can usually find tracks in the sand that haven't been disturbed by people. Tracking is especially good after a fresh snowfall. Walk along the edge of the water or on the damp sand along the creek. Larger animals will use wide open spaces, while small areas around bushes may hold the tracks of mice, shrews, and reptiles. (To tell the difference between shrew and mouse prints, measure the width of individual prints. Mouse prints are more than one inch and shrew prints are less than one inch.) You may also see prints at the base of the dunes by the water that look like bobcat prints. If the prints have claw marks on them they probably belong to a coyote or dog because the claws of a bobcat are retracted when it walks. If you look closely, you may also find tiny insect traces or traces left in the sand by blowing grasses.

Explore Great Sand Dunes' web pages on animals to learn more about the creatures who may leave tracks in the sand.


Plaster of Paris, coffee cans for mixing, petroleum jelly, large coffee cans with both ends cut off, knives, sandpaper, spray bottle with water, Mammal Tracks of Great Sand Dunes(PDF)



biological diversity, environment, interdependence, species

Last updated: February 24, 2015