Forest School footprints

Molly Toal

My forest school group on a Friday love playing in the mud and leaving handprints on the trees when they come to forest school. So today, for 30 Days Wild, we made mud flags and learned about animal tracks.

Animal tracking is a useful skill to have if you want to see or photograph animals, or if you're just interested in learning more about the creatures with whom you share a habitat.

I tell the children that I’ve hidden pictures of animal footprints in the bushes around our site. They need to bring them back and match them to the photo of the correct animal back in the fire circle. They’re quite happy to do this as another of their favourite activities at forest school is exploring in the bushes.

One by one, the children come rushing back over to me with a set of footprints. They pause, looking at all the possible animals – badger, deer, duck, otter, rabbit or fox – and the footprints with them. A look of realisation covers a child’s face each time they work out the answer.

“It’s a deer,” one boy proudly states.

“Well done, how do you know it’s a deer?” I ask.

“Because the footprints I picked up have got two toes and the footprints next to the deer have two toes,” He slams the tracks on top of the corresponding deer prints in the photo like he’s playing a game of snap. “See? They look the same.”

Activities like this help boost children’s confidence because, although still challenging, success is achievable and the topic is fun.

Learning how to identify animal tracks can make a walk in nature that little bit more exciting and interesting. It gives you clues to what animals are about and often you can find hair left inside the footprint. If the prints are fresh, you might even come across the creature who made them.

After this activity, the children raided the mud kit and we all made our own muddy tracks on a white sheet – signing our names next to our hand and foot prints.

Our Forest School Project is supported by Players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Thanks to this support, we are able to introduce hundreds of children from inner city schools in Liverpool and Manchester to the fun and benefits of outdoor learning and play every year. To find out more about the project visit our Forest School page.