Ok, creative moms (and dads)

snookumsJuly 5, 2006

My son is working on the Boy Scout nature merit badge. One of the requirements is to make a plaster cast of the track of a wild animal.

How do we go about doing this?

(Finding a track is not a problem - we live in a rural area - but I don't have the first clue how to go about making a plaster cast of one)

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starpooh

snookums - thanks for reminding me about the Boy Scout badges. Both my DS are going to camp this summer and need to complete some prereqs before then.
I haven't gone the plaster cast route yet, but there are lots of instructions on the internet. I don't think it's quite as complicated as these instructions make it out to be. You can probably purchase the plaster of paris in a crafts or hardware store.
Plaster Track Casting Procedure
Collecting Animal Tracks

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 11:00AM
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uxorial

My husband made plaster casts of cougar tracks using QuickCrete. He said that the key is the consistency of the mixture--too runny and it will sink into the dirt, too thick and you'll lose the detail. He used QuickCrete because we had it already; most people use Plaster of Paris.

I suggest finding a large animal track if possible, and make casts of a few tracks. If you're having trouble finding good tracks, put down some soft mud where the animals travel and wait a few days.

I've never made a cast myself, but here's how I would do it. Take the dry plaster and a container of water separately to the spot where the tracks are. Clear away any small twigs or other debris. Mix the plaster and pour it into the track very carefully. (If you want a clean, smooth edge, I suppose you could put some kind of form around it (maybe a cookie cutter?) Put something over the cast, such as a flower pot, milk crate, or cardboard box, so it doesn't get disturbed while it dries. When it's dry, just pick it up out of the dirt and brush it off.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 11:00AM
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sweeby

When I was at summer camp, we just made a little frame by bending a strip of cardboard into a circle and stapling it closed. Press the frame into the soil so the plaster won't seep out. Then poured Plaster of Paris into the frame and over the track. We used twigs around the outside of the frame to support a piece of aluminum foil as a cover.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 11:08AM
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mjsee

If you are doing relatively small tracks (such as deer) you can use a 3 liter soda bottle with the bottom and top cut off (so you just have a cylindar left) as your mold.

melanie

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 11:57AM
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snookums

starpooh - one of them doesn't happen to be the nature badge? If so, any tips for me? The prerequisite for summer camp (what we are doing as well) is requirement 4, A-H (5 of them). We chose the birds, mammals, reptiles & amphibians, plants, and soils & rocks. I'm feeling just a bit overwhelmed right now with how to identify all this stuff...

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 5:02PM
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bill_vincent

we just made a little frame by bending a strip of cardboard into a circle and stapling it closed.

...you can use a 3 liter soda bottle with the bottom and top cut off...

You can also cut out the bottom of a shoebox as a mold. :-)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 7:32PM
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bill_vincent

Snookums-- I can help you out with two of the harder ones-- look for soil areas around you that have a reddish look to it-- that's clay soil-- real easy to pick out. The other one, I'm surprised you didn't pick right up on-- as for rocks, IF YOU CAN'T RECOGNISE GRANITE BY NOW,....

yer on the verge of losin yer TKO status!! :-)

As for plants, what website is it we're in again??? :-)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 7:38PM
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starpooh

snookums - Are you sure that requirement #4 is a prereq? That's alot of work to do BEFORE camp. Usually the field work is done AT summer camp - a good camp will have stations setup for all the merit badges. The prereqs are usually things that take alot time. For example, DS#2 is scheduled to work on the Astronomy badge during camp. Before camp he needs to complete #6 by making a sketch of the night sky once a week for 4 weeks. He can't possibly get this done during 1 week of summer camp.
Check again with your scoutmaster; hopefully he truly doesn't need to do all that work ahead of time!
(Sorry... DS's not doing the Nature badge this summer. He's signed up for Bird Studies, Geology, Archery, Astronomy and several of the First Class Advancements. Should keep him busy!)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 10:06PM
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snookums

starpooh - yes, it is, and I agree, it's a LOT! I've been freaking out. It's for Camp Whitsett in California. He's only 10, and the only three they let him sign up for was Nature, Woodcarving, and Basketry, with those three being the only "level one" badges. I asked today if they could switch his Nature badge to the art badge (which is level 2, and supposed to be 12 and up or second class ranking and up, neither of which he is) instead, since I think that's something he'd enjoy and there are no prerequisites for it. Hopefully they'll do it...

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 4:41AM
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snookums

bill - unfortunately, my kitchen isn't considered "in the field" - so I'm not sure the scoutmaster will accept Santa Cecilia Classic as a good sample! LMAO!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 4:44AM
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snookums

Well - scratch this! I got him switched to Art which has no prerequisites so I'm not freaking out. Whew!

I did save the instructions for the plaster cast though as I'm sure we'll come across that eventually. Thank you!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 2:02PM
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starpooh

It's interesting how various BSA camps differ; my 2 DS's are going to Ten Mile River in NY. The advancement section of their leaders guide says that Requirement#4 for the Nature badge can be completed at camp if the scout selects Mammals, Reptiles, Fish, Plants, and Soil. Any others would need to be done outside of camp.

But snookums, try not to sweat it! Your son is young and has plenty of time to complete the badge requirements. He can get a "partial" now and finish the rest later. I don't expect my youngest to come home from camp with all of his badges completed. (And besides, Nature is not Eagle-required, so it's truly not a big deal to complete it soon.) Perhaps get one or two of the easy ones done before camp.

Are there other scouts also working on the Nature badge? Perhaps you can get them to work together.
Good luck! Let us know how he does.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 2:02PM
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