Dinosaur Track Detectives:
Stance and Balance
Primary Lesson Plan (2nd
Werner (1999) Girdwood, Alaska
||The recent discovery of Alaskan North Slope
dinosaur tracks provides further evidence that
dinosaurs not only lived, but also thrived in
the polar regions. In this exercise students will
become detectives who are searching for clues
from tracks. The following are some suggestions
for fun hands-on investigations.
||After completing this lesson, students will
be able to:
- Classify the tracks of many different animals
according to size, stance, and shape.
- Understand that a series of tracks is a
clue to the maker's size, stance, speed, and
- Understand the role and process of a research
- Variety of real-sized cat, dog, bird, and
dinosaur tracks (see page attached)
- Track worksheet (see page attached)
- Buckets or pans of mud, sand, and dry dirt
- Chalk and board or paper and marker
- Fork, knife, and spoon hidden in a paper
- Large inkpad and paper
- Print and Assemble Dinosaur
and Modern Animal Tracks
||STANCE AND BALANCE VARIATION
||Begin the lesson with a question/answer period.
Start this by drawing a circle on the board and
ask students what needs to be added to create
a dinosaur. They will say the obvious- eyes, ears,
nose, and mouth. Encourage them to be specific.
Are the eyes on the front or side of the head?
Do the ears stick out like humans or are they
simply holes like reptiles? Continue with a discussion
of anatomy and dinosaur ADAPTATIONS. Introduce
the following terminology: bipeds, quadrupeds,
carnivores, herbivores, and digits. Listed below
are a few sample lead-in questions.
Conclude the brainstorm of dinosaur ADAPTATIONS
and then explain to the students that they will
now learn how scientists figured out some of these
- How many legs do dinosaurs use for walking
or running? Bipeds walk on two feet while
quadrupeds walk on all four. Which is faster?
Which is more stable?
- How many digits (toes and fingers) do you
have? Do all dinosaurs have the same number
of digits? Different dinosaurs adapted with
different numbers of digits. Was it because
they used their toes and fingers for different
purposes? Dinosaurs with four digits per limb
used them for stability and balance on the
ground. Dinosaurs with three-digit limbs used
them for holding and grasping prey.
|Dinosaurs either stood on two legs or four legs.
Scientists have determined that dinosaurs adapted
according to their needs. Those that depended
on stability to graze on plants and trees would
use all four legs. Yet, hunting aggressive dinosaurs
often used two for speed - either chasing or fleeing.
The following activity will help introduce this
idea. Tell the students to stand on all fours
(two hands down and two feet down). Then tell
them to lift one hand, one foot, the other hand,
and any combination thereof. Also have them try
to move around on two legs versus four. Is it
easier for them to stand on all fours or on just
one foot? Introduce the concept of balance. It
is naturally easier to balance with more limbs
on the ground. Greater stability often compromises
speed. This explains why dinosaurs with different
needs had different bodies.
||BE A RESEARCH TEAM:
A good scientist must know WHERE to look for clues.
Ask students to remember the last time they made
a track (or got in trouble for making a track).
Many will respond that they have made mud tracks
or dirt tracks. At this point, introduce the buckets/pans
of mud, sand, and dry dirt. Ask students to hypothesize
which medium will best preserve their track. Allow
students to work in smaller groups to explore
the effects of their thumbprints in the different
mediums. Explain to students that the sand, dirt,
and mud all turn to rock after lots of time and
pressure. Allow them to decide what kind of rocks
they may find dinosaur tracks in - sandstone,
|Review findings with students. Ask them what
clues scientists use to learn about dinosaurs.
If there is time, let them create their own imaginary
dinosaur print. They can investigate their creation
as well as each others' dinosaur tracks for size,
speed, and other elements of lifestyle.
dinosaurs - One group of extinct
reptiles (orders Saurischia and Ornithischia)
that lived during the Mesozoic
anatomy - The structure or
parts of an animal like the skeletal system.
biped - An animal that walks
on two legs.
quadruped - An animal that
walks on four legs.
digits - A finger or toe.