Here in Rhode Island we have pretty snowy winters, so this is my variation on the themes of Forest Animals and Animal Tracks that other schools might introduce in the muddy season of spring. The day after a fresh fallen snow, my small suburban backyard is covered in tracks; birds, squirrels, rabbits, and possibly a neighborhood cat or other animal. Young children often wouldn’t even notice these everyday happenings if not for introducing the topic of animal tracks. Examples from my backyard:
My approach to teaching young children is not to try to cram in all the possible information or projects I can surrounding each topic, but to choose a few basics that will leave a lasting impression and possibly spark an interest in learning more in the future. At the very least, I hope that when they visit these subjects again in elementary school, they will remember a little bit about what they learned in preschool.
A favorite hands-on activity:
Tracks in the Snow
- Safari brand Toob Animals (we used North American Animals and also used some Arctic Animals later)
- Crayola Model Magic – White Frugal Tip: Wait for a 40-50% discount coupon to Michael’s or other craft store to purchase a large tub at a discount, rather than individual packages. For about $12.50, you’ll get about 5 packages in the tub. This also works for the Safari brand Toobs, although they occasionally go on sale for half price.
Options – you can also use any type of homemade or store bought play dough you have on hand. However, I love to introduce this type of dough during the winter months. It has a different, light-weight texture and really holds the animals’ footprints and shows them in more detail than a softer dough. Because Model Magic can be allowed to dry, we often use it for Christmas ornament projects and for making homemade snowmen to take home. It does get drier each time you use it, even if you store it carefully, so it is a one time per year purchase and seasonal experience for my students.
Some of my favorite books for this theme: