For our homeschool group I provide activities for our Frontiers program. This is a program through our state conservation department.
We have a variety of hands-on activities, which the kids seem to LOVE.
Here are the things we do.
This month was Wild Missouri Mammals.
Though the department of conservation we were able to borrow a Discovery Trunk that contained the pelts, skulls, and molds of footprints for 11 wild Missouri mammals. We were able to have a hands on experience with everything from a white-tailed deer, skunk, beaver, red fox, and an otter. In addition to getting an up close look at those, here are the other activities the kids did at the various stations
Whose Scat is That???
How do animals communicate?
Think about how you communicate to others. You probably thought of talking!
But how else?
Grab a partner and try to communicate something to each other without talking. Try using facial expressions, posture, body language.
If I were sad, how would you know? If I were fishing how could you tell?
Can you tell what your partner is doing?
Animals communicate with each other too. Think about your pets. How do you know when they are hungry? What to go outside? Are angry or scared?
Mammals’ keen senses, large brains, and glands allow them to communicate in different ways to others of their kind, as well as different animals.
They may call, sing, growl, use body language, or leave scents or signs in various ways.
One of those signs is scat, Ok poop
The smell says to others, “Hey I’m here!
Different animals have different looking scat.
In your baggie is some tasty, edible scat. No! It’s not real. Take the snickers and break it into pieces. I cannot think of an animal that has square poop.
Try to match the scat to the following animals.
Geese (yes I know it is not a mammal, but I couldn't resist)
Answers: Rabbit--coco puffs, Deer--raisinettes, raccoon-snickers, geese-good n’ plenty
What’s for Lunch
On the table are some tasty treats that our (herbivorous)
mammal friends would like to eat.
Please help yourself to them also, are these things you like to eat too?
White tail Deer: fruits ,seeds
Raccoon: grapes, plums, cherries, blackberries ,Osage orange
Eastern Cottontail Rabbit: alfalfa, herbs, garden vegetables
White footed mouse: domestic grains, leafy vegetation
Woodchuck: flowers, alpha, garden veges-peas, beans, corn
Opossum : mulberries, persimmons, apples
Eastern Fox Squirrel: nuts, fruits , berries
Deer Mouse: wild seeds, fruits, leafy vegetation
Eastern Chipmunk: nuts, seeds, berries, dandelion heads
We had strawberries, carrots, sunflower seeds, lettuce, corn, stevia(in herb form), apples, plums for the kids to munch on
When you do your foot track cast look at the size of the foot print, the number of toes. Compare the hind and front feet.
Think about animals with claws. What would they be used for? (capturing prey, climbing trees, digging, defense
What advantages would an animals feet give them?
Large feet make it easy to move over the surface of deep snow, rabbits, and squirrels
The toes of the deer are made to move over land quickly
The hind feet of the beaver are webbed to move through water
Make a cast.
Pick one animal, each set will have the front and back feet.
Take some of the clay dough and place it into the mold.
Place your filled molds onto a piece of colored foam that your name is on.
Allow to dry for about 10 minutes. It will still be damp when you place it on your foam, and will be ready to paint tomorrow.
We are taking them out early so that everyone has a chance to make a pair of footprints.
What’s your Autograph look like?
Each kind of animal leaves its own kind of track. We can tell what an animal was
doing by studying tracks. We might tell if it was walking, running, jumping, etc..
What does your track look like?
Take up to 3 sheets of black paper
Step into the pan that has baby powder in it.
Step onto your paper with different types of steps,: walking, jumping, running, tip-toes.
Look at the different tracks you made.
Does the way you stepped change the way your footprint came out?
Compare your prints to others
Keeping Warm and Thinking Big
On the table are the pelts and skulls of the following animals.
These are also the animals that we have foot tracks for.
(These animals were trapped by properly licensed people using legal methods and following accepted guidelines)
Please when looking at the pelts and skulls be VERY CAREFUL. Handle gently to avoid pulling out fur or dropping skulls.
Squirrel, Eastern Gray
Look at the Mammals I and Mammals II posters. How are these animals alike and how are they different from each other?
Have you ever seen any of these animals in real life, maybe around your homes, at the park, on a hike, or in the zoo?
Each species of wild mammal in Missouri has a pelt, skull and track pattern which is distinctive to that species. Because of this, a wild mammal can be identified by its pelt, track and skull.
Continuing survival of a species depends on its ability to find food, avoid predators and successfully reproduce.
Closely examine the pelts and skulls of the Missouri Mammals to reveal information about how each species is adapted to survive in its environment
Look closely at the animal pelts.
Fur is one adaptation for survival.
What do the furs feel like?
Why do you think a warm blooded animal may need fur? (helps them conserve hear and energy during the cold)
Why do you think mammals have different colored fur? (to blend in with its environment)
Look closely at the animal skulls
Can you tell if the animal is a:
Carnivore (meat eater), such as the bobcat. Look at the shape and arrangement of its teeth.
Herbivore (plant eater), such as the white-tailed deer. Its teeth are adapted for shredding and grinding plants
Omnivore (both meat and plant), such as the opossum, how can you tell it would eat both?
After examining the pelts and skulls, how does that animal suvive in its environment;
How does it find good, avoids being eaten ect.
Which of these animals will do well with environmental changes, (living in an city) which ones would not do well.
Make a Habitat
Like us, Missouri Mammals need four basic habitat components; food, water, cover and space to survive.
Wildlife need cover for many life functions, including nesting, escaping from predators, seeking shelter from the elements on a cold winter day, and resting.
An underground burrow, a cavity in a tree, a brush pile, or even plants along a road might provide cover for a den or nest site.
Make your own cover/home.
Use the natural materials provided, such as grass clippings, twigs to make trees or dens, clay to make caves. What else can you think of?