Tracking

Create a trail for others to follow using tracking signs and symbols.

Consider running this activity outdoors. Find a suitable location.

Print out or create different tracking signs and symbols and put them on the ground. You could use any materials to hand for this.

Download the activity plan (PDF, 613.3KB)

Essentials

  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Location: Outdoors
  • Cost: Free
  • Suitable for: Pairs or small groups
  • You will need: Natural materials (leaves, twigs, feathers), tracking symbol sheets

How to run this activity

Time to track

  1. Introduce the art of tracking to the group. This means using of signs and symbols to leave a trail for other people to follow.
  2. Everyone should split into pairs or small groups. Each group needs a sheet to help them identify different tracking signs and symbols.
  3. Each group should work to identify what all the signs and symbols on the floor mean.
  4. Once everyone has finished, two pairs or small groups should join together. One pair should plan a simple trail for the other – one they can actually follow.
  5. Everyone should think about what they could use to make the signs – this could be anything from chalk to sticks to grass to crisp packets – almost anything will work!
  6. Each team has five minutes to lay out their simple trail, before testing if they can follow the route.

Good tracking means you have to be observant and pay attention to your surroundings. This is a good game for people to look around them and observe and appreciate the area around them.

  1. Swap over so the pair laying the trail now get the chance to follow a trail.
  2. Follow up this activity by asking the group to look for natural track and signs, and thinking about what these might be. This could be something out of place, where an animal has disturbed something looking for food, or where a plant has been crushed by a foot, for example. Everyone should look for a natural track or sign, and try to work out what caused it.

Reflection

This activity gave everyone a chance to enjoy being outdoors. What did you enjoy about making and following the tracks? Did you find it easy to spot and follow the tracks once you knew what you were looking for? Did you feel comfortable being outside to lay and follow the track?

This activity needed everyone to communicate. When might you use a tracking sign or symbol to send a message to someone else? You might want to think about alerting someone to a hazard up ahead, or letting someone know where the camp or base is. When might laying a track be more useful than having a mobile phone? It might be useful when you don’t have signal, or you wanted to communicate with people you don’t know – or it might just be that laying a track is fun!

Activity outcomes

Value the outdoors - enjoy being outside, feel comfortable in nature, and feel connected to the natural environment.

Communicate - learn to express your own views, listen to others, and understand what they’re trying to tell you.

Safety guidance

All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and include hazards such as roads, woodland, bodies of water (for example, rivers, ponds, lakes, and seas), plants, and animals. Take appropriate steps to reduce risk.

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.

You’ll probably need more adult helpers than usual. Your risk assessment should include how many adults you need. The young people to adult ratios are a minimum requirement; when you do your risk assessment, you might decide that you need more adults than the ratio specifies.

Think about extra equipment that you may need to take with you, for example, a first aid kit, water, and waterproofs.

Throughout the activity, watch out for changes in the weather and do regular headcounts. 

The game area should be free of hazards. Explain the rules of the game clearly and have a clear way to communicate that the game must stop when needed.

Level up

Start with just a few tracking signs and add more as the group becomes more confident. Put tracking signs at different levels – try on logs or chairs as well as on the floor. You could also print out the different tracking symbols, if that makes them clearer to see.

Take it further

Use the materials to create a special sign that represents your group. The group could make this sign when out and about to show that one of their members has been there. Don’t forget to only use found materials – you should never pick leaves or break off branches, and you should make sure that any track signs aren’t on pathways.

Groups or pairs can set their own trails for others to follow. Alternatively, they could create a brand new track to share with the group.

Access guidance

Make sure the trails are placed in areas accessible for everyone in the group.

Other activities

Thinking about the meaning and signs of nature is one of five things that can help people build a better relationship with nature.

Explore our free resources for more activity ideas.

Free resources