Thu 16: Moa footprints

Let’s travel back in time…

Written by      



Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story. If young readers find it tricky; just look at the pictures and read the captions to figure it out.

Talking points

Discuss the ideas presented in the story with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.

  • Have you ever seen a moa skeleton or a moa egg in a museum? How about a moa sculpture or reconstruction? What do you know about moa?
  • Can you imagine how Michael Johnstone, the man who found the footsteps, must have felt when he noticed the giant prints in the river? What do you think you would do if you saw something like that?
  • Were you surprised by the size of the footprints—30cm by 30cm? Do they look similar to any other kind of bird footprints that you’ve seen before?
  • Did you know that some people take artefacts such as moa bones and footprints and sell them on Trademe? Do you think this is fair? Why or why not?
  • The footprints were buried under clay and soil, where they lay hidden for millions of years before being exposed by flooding. Is it possible that similar footprints could lie beneath the soil in lots of other places – even where you live?

Task—Make your own imprint fossils

Imprint fossils are made when matter is pressed into clay or silt. It could be a bird’s foot making the imprint, or a leaf that is pressed into the ground. Long after the bird has walked on or the leaf has decomposed, the print remains in the clay.

You can have fun making your own imprint fossils by pressing materials into clay. For example, a leaf (push on it with the bumpier side down) or a shell. Are there any plastic animals you could try making footprints from?

  1. Gather some clay. Use what suits you best—you may have your own clay, or you may have a garden with clay soil you can extract from. If you want to use kitchen resources, you could make a salt-dough using flour and salt, or a cornstarch dough using cornstarch and salt.
  2. Gather materials to make imprints with: leaves, shells, lichen, twigs.
  3. Gently press or roll out a disc of clay. If you’d like to hang it up later, make a small hole at one end. You can tie string through this hole when it has dried.
  4. Press your item onto the clay disc. If you are using a leaf, put the bumpy side down. Peel it off and your fossil imprint is revealed.

Send us a picture of your imprint fossils!