Re: Mixing Plaster of Paris
Charlie Thorpe (charlie2@RO.COM)
Wed, 23 Oct 1996 14:41:30 -0600
Hello Clayton -
>We're going to try to let some Cub Scouts make plaster of paris casts
>of animal tracks on their next campout...Can anyone give me an idea
>of what ratio of plaster of water works bests? Any other useful ideas
>would be appreciated as well...
Congratulations on getting the kids involved in a very fun and rewarding
activity. I have long thought that such nature study is just one more way
to get very positive growth benefits from that big "Kim's game" that we
call the outdoors!
To be honest, I have never tried to come up with an exact recipe for mixing
plaster of paris in the field. I just try to get a happy medium between
being loose enough to get down into the intricate nooks/crannies of the
track without being so loose that it either soaks into the ground or
ignores your frame/berm and runs all over the place.
I like to put a dollup (shake or two <g>) of dry mix into a zip-loc to
carry into the field. When I chance upon a neat track, I start adding
water from my canteen until it gets about as stiff as a good pancake
batter. Using the zip- loc, you can mix and pour without getting it all
over your hands (and you have something to carry mix residue and trash out
You might want to grab a couple of the neighborhood dogs (cats, gerbils,
toddlers, etc.) at your next den meeting and experiment with making tracks
out in the back yard...and then practice making casts of the tracks. Don't
worry, it should all eventually wash out of the uniforms (and the hall
I had a friend (police detective) who made casts of car tracks and such
"for a living." He suggested lightly spraying the area to be cast with PAM
or some other veggie oil spray. This creates a better surface boundary
that holds fine details in place during pouring and keeps the moist plaster
mix from seeping into the ground where it shouldn't. I have also tried
spray paint in a pinch and it seemed to work fine....(I didn't leave the
spray painted dirt in the woods, of course <g>!)
If you take the trouble to get some good casts of an entire track set (all
feet, multiple times) be sure to clean them up, identify/label them, and
save them. You can make a sand bed at home later and use the casts to make
very interesting "tracking problems" for the kids. They can even practice
their own cast making techniques on your sand bed tracks!
Casts of animal tracks (don't forget the birds!) can be a great way to
bring nature back to the meeting place. You have created a tool that can
be used later to recreate the tracks, you have created a "nature curiosity"
that itself sparks interest in getting out into the woods, you have started
teaching the kids how to sharpen their observation skills, you have started
a great collection project, you have had a LOT of fun...AND, you have done
it all without doing any damage whatsoever to the environment that produced
the tracks in the first place (nothing damaged, nothing removed, etc.).
If your den gets a good collection going of local wildlife track casts, be
sure to add casts of the Cub's feet to the collection...it goes a long way
toward helping them understand that they are an important part of "nature"
Hey...maybe this is just one small part of the "grand game of Scouting"
that we keep hearing about <VBG>. Good luck!
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City