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Track the Prints

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Author: Jane Healey

Grade Level: 6th; Type: Earth Science

Objective:

The goal of this project is to demonstrate how tracks are formed.  The project offers students an opportunity to experiment with the amount of moisture and dry materials necessary to impact the “dirt” properly. Students also reverse the process and make prints of the track.

Research Questions:

  • How are animal tracks—even dinosaur tracks—formed? 
  • How can tracks be preserved and studied?

Tracks are formed when animals walk or crawl in soft mud or sand. If the impression is not disturbed and the ground dries, a hard print forms. Additionally, if layers of sand, dirt and other sediment cover the tracks before the elements or other animals disturb them, they turn into rock and are preserved forever.

If the water and/or dry stuff mixture is varied to test the best proportions, those materials become the independent variables while the quality of the resultant prints are the dependent variables. The constants are the materials, the conditions and the people performing the experiment.

Materials:

  • Flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Plaster
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Paper plates
  • Baking pan
  • Water

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Pour ½ cup of flour and cornmeal into the bowl.
  2. Slowly pour water into the flour and cornmeal.
  3. Pour the “mud” mixture onto a plate and spread evenly.
  4. Wet a hand with water, spread the fingers and press the palm into the mud.
  5. Remove the hand and check to make sure the print is good. If not, repeat.
  6. Place the plate on a flat surface and leave it undisturbed.
  7. Allow 3-5 days to dry.
  8. After the handprint is completely dry, mix the plaster in a disposable container and pour it into the track.
  9. Wait approx. 20 minutes and lift the plaster from the mud mixture.

[NOTE: Vary the amount of water and/or the flour and cornmeal mixture to test the optimal proportions.]

Terms/Concepts: Fossil; Imprints; Tracks

References:

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