Be a Trackway Detective

Part of the Dinosaurs: Activities and Lesson Plans Curriculum Collection.


Students will analyze a fossil trackway to draw conclusions about what it reveals about nonavian dinosaur behavior.


Students will:

gain an understanding of the information trackways provide about dinosaurs. Time Frame 40 minutes Materials

  • Illustration of a fossil trackway
  • Be a Trackway Detective reproducible, duplicated for each student
  • Blue, red, yellow, and green crayons or colored pencils


Prior Knowledge

1. Display the illustration of the trackway. Point out that it is a trace fossil, evidence of the dinosaur’s activity.


  • What does the trackway show? (Answer: footprints.)
  • How many different kinds of trackways can you see? (Answer: Three.)
  • Can you tell which animal passed by first? How? (Answer: The other prints cover the first print.)
  • Can you tell which dinosaur is the meat eater and which the plant eater? (Answer: Generally, three-toed dinosaurs were meat eaters. The large footprint was of a large, slow-moving dinosaur, probably a plant eater.)
  • Can you tell whether or not the dinosaurs were at this spot at the same time? (Answer: No, because the meat eater might have passed by hours after the plant eater.) 


2. Tell students that they will each get their own trackway to analyze. Distribute the student sheets and crayons or pencils. Have a volunteer read the directions aloud. Make sure students understand what they are to do. Provide 20 minutes for students to complete the activity.


3. Review and discuss students’ answers.