If you live where it snows, you’ve probably spotted an animal track or footprint before. Even if you live where it is warm, you can sometimes see animal tracks in the mud, sand, or even dust. So if you don’t have snow, we will also give you some ideas on how to improvise for this study of animal tracks in the snow.
I don’t know about your house, but when it snows around here, all the kiddos are itching to get outside and play. Getting out in nature and hunting for animal tracks is all kinds of fun!!
Animal Tracks in the Snow
There are a few things to know before heading out to hunt for animal tracks in the snow (or mud, or sand) or if you plan to make your own footprints. Here are the basics of wildlife (or human) tracking!
Animal Tracks in the Snow by Shape and Size
Different animals (and people) make different sized and shaped tracks. The shape of the track can help you identify who or what made it. Adults make larger footprints than kids, much like a mountain lion makes a larger track than a house cat. (No, I don’t expect you to track a mountain lion, it was just the first big cat that popped into my head!)
Animal Tracks in the Snow by Gait Pattern
Another aspect to consider is the Gait pattern and motion. Another way to say this is the size of the paces of the person or animal that left the tracks. For example, a fox that is running will have a different pattern of motion than one that is sniffing and tracking. An animal that is moving fast will have a different pattern than one that is moving slowly. Just like if you are skipping you will leave different footprints than when you are walking, etc. Isn’t this fascinating to think about already?!
Common animal gaits fall into these categories:
- waddlers, etc.
Your human track-makers might have gaits like walking, skipping, hopping, jumping on one foot, sprinting, etc.
But what if you don’t have any snow or you just don’t have the time to really hunt some down? You can always get your kiddos to make their own tracks for this study because the important aspect is not the animal track itself but the math associated with it.
Animal Tracks in the Snow Math Materials
For this tracking math activity, you need very few supplies.
- an outdoor space
- “Making Tracks” Data Sheet and Lesson Plan (optional, but helpful)
- pencil or writing implement
- clipboard (optional, but helpful)
- Mammal Tracks and Scat: Life-Size Tracking Guide (optional, but I highly recommend if you are tracking wildlife and not children! It is sturdy and waterproof and includes pictures of animal tracks in their actual size.)
- Snow, sand, dust or mud
Make Tracks! Procedure
First, you’ll decide if you will be tracking wildlife or children. Maybe both! Either way, the process will be the same.
1. Find or make some tracks. A good way to start with kids is to simply walk a few steps in a normal walking pattern or gait. Compare one child’s walking gait footprints to another, or to an adult’s walking gait footprints.
2. Use the tape measure or meter stick to measure the distance between tracks. Measure from the toe of the first track to the toe of the next, or heel to heel. It doesn’t matter which way you measure, just choose one and stick with it for consistency throughout your investigation.
3. Record your results. Write down what you find so that you can use the measurements later for simple math activities. For example: How much further apart are X’s steps compared to Y’s steps? How many steps can X make for every 3 steps Y makes?
You can also draw the gait pattern for the different gaits. A walking pattern will be different than a hopping-on-one-foot pattern. You can compare between people, or use a guidebook or the internet to find some animal gaits to compare them to.