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Old 08-18-2009, 01:37 PM   #1
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Default A junior naturalists project, animal track casts

A junior naturalist is a program for younger children interested in learning more about nature and the great outdoors.

AMC has a very good program although there are countless others-
AMC: Education - Junior Naturalist Program
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AMC’s Junior Naturalist program is a great way to help your kids get out, get active, and learn more about the outdoors. This exciting, hands-on, environmental awareness program was designed to help young visitors to AMC Destinations gain an understanding of the natural world and their important role in helping to protect it.
This project is the hands on component of a junior naturalists module that helps provide an enriched nature experience for little trackers.
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:15 PM   #2
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We choose a site close to water where children will be most likely to find animal tracks. We like it when it rains and the ground is good and muddy because that is the best time to find wonderful animal tracks.

We then take time to discuss the animals most likely to be making the tracks. We keep it simple and discuss four animals.

The book we use is Animal Tracks of Minnesota and Wisconsin. We find its simplicity to be well suited to younger ages-
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1551052504/qid=1082472300/sr=1-6
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:19 PM   #3
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Tracks, Scats, and Signs is another book well suited to younger children-
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1559715995/qid=1082472300/sr=1-4
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:20 PM   #4
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We have several handouts of black line drawings of raccoon, skunk, coyote, opossum, rabbit, deer. There are several sites online that would provide good images to copy for children-

http://www.camping-field-guide.com/animal-tracks.html
http://www.humboldt.net/~tracker/index.html
http://www.beartrackersden.com/trackguide/trackguidecabrera.pdf

These are passed out to the children.
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:22 PM   #5
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From there we go to a muddy area and instruct them to press their foot down into the ground. When they lift up, there is a print of their shoe or sandal. Lots of fun. They are now able to understand how the animals leave tracks for them to enjoy. Please find a photo of tracks from a site we visited.

Now we pass out a popsickle stick and ask each child to write their name on it. We distribute a pre-cut solo cup to each child then set them loose to find tracks letting them know to place their solo cup around the print they find that they would like to make a casting of.
Attached Thumbnails
A junior naturalists project, animal track casts-fun.jpg  
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:26 PM   #6
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After each child has found an animal track and staked their claim to their track using their popsicle stick, we call them all back to begin mixing the Plaster of Paris. We discuss the consistency with them necessary for a good mix and let them add water or plaster as needed. Each child takes a turn stirring the mix. They love to stir.

What we do is we take our mixing bowl and begin walking to each child's print. We identify the print and allow the child who found it to use the ladle to fill their solo round.
Attached Thumbnails
A junior naturalists project, animal track casts-plaster-paris.jpg   A junior naturalists project, animal track casts-jason0x21-creative-commons-license-flickr-.jpg  
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:29 PM   #7
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Plaster of Paris is an ideal medium to use because it does not shrink. It sets up relatively fast also which is an added bonus.

After the child fills his or her form, they may use a toothpick to write their name in the plaster. This personalizes the track for them.
Attached Thumbnails
A junior naturalists project, animal track casts-img_0801_00.jpg  
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:30 PM   #8
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By the end of the day the solo form is able to be removed and they may take their plaster cast of their animal track home with them to show off to their families.
Attached Thumbnails
A junior naturalists project, animal track casts-img_0801_01.jpg  
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:37 PM   #9
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I was sent out on a field trip like this when I was little, in a small pack of kids on a nature trail with a guide very much like you, TheLorax. I cast a raccoon's paw track. My father, bless him, kept it for at least 30 years, using it as a paper weight. Programs like this turn out to be so much more than mere "craft projects." They become links between nature and children, and the people who love them. Thank you for bringing this thread to us.
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:39 PM   #10
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What a sweetie you are.

I still have my Plaster of Paris casting I made when I was in first grade. Mine was made of seashells. I am still proud of it.
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