What you’ll learn:
How to tell a story using the traveling patterns of animal tracks.
Animal tracks are different for different animals, with each track taking the shape and characteristics of the animals foot, or paw.
We can use the shape of each track to identify the animal and tell a story of what took place.
Tell a Story
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 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.
3D Print Real Animal Tracks
With the use of a 3D printer and a freely downloadable file you will have access to the tracks of 8 animals that can be printed into clay. This allows kids to build a story of 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.
Blending Art, Science and Story Telling!
I love a lot of things about this 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).
- 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
1. Print your animal tracks stamps.
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. Isabella 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.
4. Create your animal tracks story
Kids should have at least 30 minutes to craft their 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 stories, try to decipher what may have happened, and to share with others their own animal tracks story!
For more fun animal activities, check out our butterfly and tadpole metamorphosis science activity