Today I’m focusing on resources to help you prepare for the “What Went By” event at an Elementary Science Olympiad. If you have a child interested in animals and nature you will enjoy this list as well.
Wild Tracks! by Jim Arnosky is a fantastic resource. It may look like a child’s picture book from the outside, but it is full of helpful information and LIFE-SIZE Prints. Kids will learn that hoofed animals walk and run on their toes and wildcats use the same tracks over and over again, however this book stays away from scientific terms such as digitigrade and direct register. Instead it is written in a friendly, digestible form perfect for independent learning even at younger ages. The tracks examined are mostly common mammals of North America.
Animal Tracks and Signs by Jinny Johnson from National Geographic is another great resource. The foreward does a nice job of explaining reasons a person may want to identify animal signs and tracks. The introduction provides a great list of scientific vocabulary terms that are useful for a young biologist and covered by the “What Went By” event. The pictures of scat are very useful as most books don’t include color pictures of scat. The scope of this book is very broad and contains information about animals from all over the world.
The Nature Series: Science on Tracking Expedition kit is also useful for kids interested in learning more about animal tracking. The focus of this kit is purely tracking. It comes with plaster of paris for making your own cast in nature or from the supplied molds.The matching cards that come with this kit are useful for memorizing different track attributes. If you are creative you can create
National Geographic has a teacher’s guide that is pretty helpful when it comes to identifying scat. We thought about doing the candy scat project, but decided we didn’t want to solidify those associations in our brains.
Our local natural history museum had a teacher’s resource kit that was very helpful. You may want to check with your state conservation department or local park system to see if they have any kits available for loan.
In addition to the resources listed above, we found local nature centers did classes specifically about animal tracking with Science Olympiad preparation in mind. These classes yielded some helpful hints we didn’t find in the books.
Perhaps the best preparation was just spending lots of time outdoors with an eye toward animal signs.