Life skill: Environmental stewardship
Step 1: Make an animal track stencil.
—Have kids choose an animal that they want other people to know about. It could be an endangered animal from a faraway country or one that lives in your neighborhood.
—Look online to find the shape of the animal’s footprint.
—Print a copy of the footprint at the size you want.
—Cut out each part of the print (for instance, the heel, four toes, and four claws) to make a pattern for the stencil.
—On a file folder or cardstock, arrange the cutouts back into the shape of the paw. Trace around the cutouts.
—Poke a small starter hole in the center of each section.
—Slide one side of the scissors into the hole and cut to the track’s edge. Then cut out each section along the outline.
Step 2: Make washable liquid chalk.
—In a small container, mix:
• 1 cup corn starch
• 1 cup water
—Divide the mixture into different containers.
—Add about 4 to 6 drops of food coloring to each container to make a variety of chalk colors.
—Paint or drip a few drops onto the cement to test the color, then let it dry. (The chalk should darken as it dries.) If it’s not colorful enough, add a couple more drops of food coloring.
Step 3: Create the tracks.
(Have kids practice on cement that’s out of view. This way they can get a feel for their technique and the amount of paint needed.)
—Choose a dry sidewalk or paved path. Brush off excess leaves and dirt from the cement.
—Hold the stencil onto the cement with one hand.
—Stir the liquid chalk if the cornstarch has settled, then dip in the paintbrush. Wipe off the excess paint on the side of the container. (If the brush is too wet, the paint will seep underneath the stencil.)
—Dab the brush into each cut-out portion of the stencil until the entire shape is filled in with paint.
—Move the stencil based on where the animal’s other paws would be, and repeat the stencil process.
—Keep going! Your child can decide how far the animal “walks.”
—Write the animal’s name near the tracks.
Try these other ideas for a trail of fun.
• Make stencils that show left, right, front, and hind feet.
• Create tracks based on the animal’s wild behavior: Should rabbit tracks zig zag as if it’s escaping a predator? Should tiger tracks appear as if it’s leaping or walking?
• For more realistic tracks, measure out the animal’s gait on the sidewalk.
• Make signs to share information about the animal and its tracks. (Learn how to build a nature trail.)
• Create insect or bird tracks. (Check out this article about backyard safaris to get ideas.)
• Have tracks cross paths.
• Make stamps. Trace the tracks onto a clean kitchen sponge with a marker, and cut them out. Use a glue gun to attach the sponge pieces onto cardboard. (Adults should help younger children with this.) Dip the stamp into liquid chalk to make the tracks.