Monday, February 15, 2010

Animal Track Identification

We have started our Mammal Unit Study.  I have been using a lot of the printouts in Considering God's Creation.  Last week, the activity for the day was to make an Animal Track Booklet and play a "tracking" game.  I was to lay printouts of various animal tracks on the floor and using their Track Booklet, they would identify the animal that made those tracks.   Before we started this, I received a rather humorous call from a frantic Fed Ex guy who was sitting at the top of my driveway and refused to come down.  He was verbally wringing his hands for fear his "heavy truck" would get "stuck in the mud"....okay, so it was muddy, but he would've been fine.  At any rate, I assured him I would come to the top of the drive and retrieve my package and his truck AND job would be safe.  :)  As I was making my way to get my parcel, I noticed numerous deer tracks on my driveway!  Imagine my excitement!  It was animal tracking day in our unit study...and here are actual tracks in the mud!!  The thought then occurred to me that there would most likely be additional tracks at the bottom of the drive around the creek.  So, off I set on a most determined mission to find more tracks.  What luck!  The creek area provided raccoon and possum tracks.  I was elated....seriously.  I so love it when something we are studying can be taken into everyday life.  I went back inside, got the kids, and took them outside to see our treasures :)
We took pictures and they identified the animal tracks.  I was thinking it would be so cool if we could pour some plaster in the tracks and make molds.  However, I was out of plaster ....then, it started pouring rain so I assumed we were out of luck.  After the rain, we checked on our tracks.  Every sign of the possum and raccoon had been washed away.  Upon inspecting our deer tracks though, we found them to be in great shape.  I purchased some plaster ASAP and off we trekked to see if we couldn't capture the footprint of a deer.  A cardboard ring was placed around the track and then the wet plaster was poured into that.  I wasn't sure how well it would work since the ground was still quite muddy.  We left the plaster to work its magic for the next 30 minutes and retreated to the warmth of our abode :)
30 minutes later, Jacob accompanies me outside to check on our adventure.  We were anticipating greatly the outcome...   I picked the casting up and it had about an inch or more of mud stuck to it....we couldn't see the hoof - if it was even there.  We brought them in, sat them on paper, and began a tedious job of trying to remove the mud without damaging the hoof.  I googled it and read that you can hold the plaster under running water to remove mud from animal track castings ....just don't submerge it for any length of time.  That worked perfectly!  The hoof castings looked great!!  We painted only over the impression with brown paint and VOILA!~  A near perfect deer track casting.
What began as a printout animal tracking game, became a real life science lesson, an art project, and another lighting of an educational fire.  I so love the opportunities that arise from homeschooling.  I love how you can go from one depth to another and keep going if curiosity demands.  I love how they get so many hands-on applications.  I love to watch my children learning and growing.
One of the deer tracks on the driveway.
Double hoof casting ~ still muddy.

Both castings....cleaned and painted!  :)

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