One of the most elementary nature-watching skills you can teach children is animal track identification. This can be scaled up or down, depending on the age of the children involved. For example, one of the most fundamental and easily identifiable differences in tracks are between those animals with hooves and those with footpads. Then you can invite the kids to name animals with hooves or with feet. This can be taken up into ever more specific levels. The next step is what animals have pointy hooves and what animals have rounded hooves. From there, the children can get into identifying specific animals. Animals with feet instead of hooves can be identified using a similar process.
Another activity is to make casts of animal tracks. This is a simple hands-on activity. You bring along plaster of paris, some water, a mixing bowl and a paint mixing stick. If you wish, you could set the kids to work on making their own plaster, but after demonstrating you should definitely let them pour their own casting. The plaster is poured into a thick layer over the tracks and then left to harden for roughly half an hour. When the plaster is solid, it can be pulled off the ground. The kids can take one or more sets of tracks home with them.
Another activity is following the tracks. This is a good activity for using up energy, but it does require the kids to pay attention to details. A lot of time can be spent looking around for tracks and reacquiring them after an animal passes through an area where it left no footprints. Tracking also offers an opportunity to ask kids the questions "why was the animal here?" and "why did it go that way?" The answers to these questions deal with animal behavior and habitat, and provide an introduction into nature study.
Article Written By Edwin Thomas
Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.