Animal Tracks: Learning Patterns through Storytelling

What you'll learn:

How to tell a story using the traveling patterns of animal tracks.

Key takeaways:

Animal tracks are different for different animals, with each animal track taking the shape and characteristics of the animals foot, or paw. We can use the shape of each animal track to identify the animal and tell a story of what took place.

Looking at, identifying, and learning to tell a story with animal tracks has tie points to the NGSS standards, but is also a captivating and engaging jumping point to peak kids' interest in a variety of nature based sciences. This animal tracks project can tie in with outdoor trips if your location allows. What I love about this animal tracking project, however, is that you don't have to have an outdoor area to begin to teach learners about animal tracks, structure and function of various animal feet, traits passed down from parents, etc. 

With the use of a 3D printer and a freely downloadable file you will have access to the animal tracks of 8 animals that can be printed into clay. This allows kids to build a story of animal tracks in their clay. Does the bear go to the river to drink water? What is the coyote doing? Is the seagul searching for clams? Did a bear chase a deer for a meal? Kids will get to decide what happens on their clay and figure out how they can use the animal tracks to then tell that story.

What I love a lot of things about this animal tracks project. First, it blends art, literacy, and science into one activity. Second, it is hands on, creative, messy, and unique for each child, allowing the engagemnt to be sky high. Third, it opens a space for kids to tell their stories, which helps them learn to communicate ideas, a very important trait for scientists (and arguably humans).

Project Ingredients:
Animal tracking clay stamps .STL download
PLA Filament
Air dry clay
Blue rocks for rivers (you can find this SO much cheaper at the dollar store!)
Dry moss (again, cheaper at the dollar store, free from your backyard)
Access to a 3D printer, or you can order online. We love the Creality 3D printer.

How to make an animal tracks story in clay

3d printed animal tracks for education

1. Print your animal tracks stamps. 

You can download the .STL file of our animal tracks clay stamps to print yourself, or you can send them off to a 3D printing service. I printed one set for every 4 students. These animal track clay stamps are created from files you can download at the 3D animal tracks project.  Isabel has used software that turns 40+ images of a track into a 3D map that can be printed, we used these files and inverted them to create stamps. In fact, we are also creating life-size inversions that can be used to ‘stamp’ the grounds around you with various animals!

Bonus, you can download the life-size 3D printable castings of the animal tracks to allow students to touch, feel, and investigate tracks from a variety of animals.

2. Prepare your supplies

Each student will need their own slab of clay for this project. You can prep this using a clay roller to roll clay and cut it into similarly sized squares, or rectangles. This clay will provide the base for their animal tracks project.

3. Present the project

Kids will have time to free build their animal tracks story, but first, you need to set the stage for this project. You can do this through reading stories. You can also talk about what our footprints look like. Do they look different than a dogs footprint? Why? How? 

Ask if footprints can tell a story. Ask them to think of a story of animals in a forest, any story they choose, how would they show this story only using animal tracks? Once students are warmed up you can present the stamps, clay, and supplies. 


I really liked the Wild Tracks and Who was here? books

animal tracking activities for kids

4. Create your animal tracks story

Kids should have at least 30 minutes to craft their animal tracks story. Encourage them to use the supplies to create the scene, be it by a lake, river, on a rocky bed, etc. 

5. Share your animal tracks story

Be sure to allow time for kids to look at each other’s animal tracks stories, try to decipher what may have happened, and to share with others their own animal tracks story!