Fossil Dig

Norman Barstowby:  Norman Barstow

Simulated Fossil Dig

Archeology is the study of society through the discovery, recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that humans have left behind. The data can include artifacts, architecture, and cultural landscapes. Paleontology is the scientific study of prehistoric life.  It includes the study of fossils to determine organisms’ evolution and interactions with each other and their environments.  Most readers will recognize fictionalized accounts of the action and adventures in the pursuit of archeological or paleontological discovery from such blockbuster films as ‘Indiana Jones’ or ‘Jurassic Park’.  While this exercise may not feature the nonstop action and Hollywood fanfare of those films, it is still a fun and valuable classroom activity, not to mention much less expensive.


The student will:

  • Practice fossil preparation skills using real tools and techniques by removing real fossils from an artificial matrix.
  • Be able to explain the difference between a chunk (broken piece) of fossil and a complete fossil bone.
  • Be able to list reasons why broken fossils are more common in nature than complete fossils.


* Plastic butter tubs (1 per student) OR larger plastic trays (for a student group).

* Sand (use contractor or play sand, clean, with no pebbles)

* Fossil Sorting Kit from Educational InnovationsFossil Dig Kit

* Potting soil (to add to matrix mixture and to cover the completed matrix).

* Plaster

* Water (sink)

* Bucket

* Stirring stick

* Small rocks and pebbles (per tub/tray) to add reality to the scene.

* Dental picks (w/erasers on one end, 1 per student) or dental picks with handles **

* Plastic knife

* Toothbrush or other stiff brush. (1 per student)

* Plastic trays (1 per student)

* Ziploc bags (1 per student)

* Permanent markers (1 or more)

* Pith helmet (optional)

**  Available from the Widget Supply Company

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Dinosaur Mania! Digging Fossils

Michelle Bertkeby: Michelle Bertke

Both the young and old have a special fascination with dinosaurs.  From the small Nemicolopterus to the larger Sauroposeidon, dinosaurs were magnificent and majestic creatures.  This is a topic students want to learn and adults want to teach.  Luckily, there are many at-home experiments and activities that parents can do to foster their children’s love for dinosaurs.

Impression Fossils

Digging FossilsImpression fossils are one way that animals and plants, which are long since gone from this world, leave their mark.  One easy way to show how imprint fossils are formed is with play dough and plastic creatures.  Students can use the play dough (which is easily homemade) as a medium in which to press the plastic creatures.  This will leave an impression with a certain amount of detail.  Have the students compare the fossil imprint with their creature or mix up the imprints and play a matching game.  Use this activity to illustrate what can be determined from an imprint fossil (size or texture) and what cannot be determined (color).

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Ammonite, The Fibonacci Fossil!

Sara Brandtby: Sara Brandt

Ammonite was once thought to be the petrified remains of snakes! Modern science, however, tells us that these fascinating fossils are actually the remains of an ancient aquatic mollusk.  A mollusk is an invertebrate with a soft, unsegmented body.  The soft body of an ammonite was protected by a hard outer shell. The shells of ammonites ranged from an inch to nine feet! Each shell is divided into many different chambers. The walls of each chamber are called septa. The septa were penetrated by the ammonite’s siphuncle, a tube-like structure that allowed the ammonite to control the air pressure inside its shell. Ammonites were aquatic creatures, and being able to control the air pressure inside their shells meant being able to control their buoyancy.

What is the Fibonacci sequence?

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