Red Flags
Always dig in a safe area—free from hazardous material.

Questions to Ask
What do you know about fossils? What would you like to learn about fossils? How can we learn it? These questions may lead you to a discussion of dinosaurs. There is much information about these prehistoric animals, and children of all ages are very interested in this topic.

Tips for Less Mess: This is a perfect activity for the outdoors, but if you work inside, a few precautions will help with clean up. Cover the work surface with newspaper; keep paper towels and a garbage bag handy; and have a broom and dustpan available.

Science Connection

By studying these fossils, paleontologists have determined how fast some dinosaurs moved and what extinct organisms looked like

Why
To be a paleontologist and pretend to discover and care for found fossils

What You Need

  • Paper carton (such as a milk carton) or plastic container
  • *Clay or clay soil (Clay can be found naturally along streambeds and beneath the grass under the topsoil.)
  • Water
  • Seashells
  • Bones
  • Small plastic animals
  • Sticks

    What to Do
    Go on an excursion to look for clay soil. If possible, dig some up to use for this exploration. Place it in the paper or plastic container and add a bit of water. Stir with a stick, adding more water until it becomes a thick paste. Bury seashells or other material and then tap the mold to compress the mud. Place in the sun or a warm place to dry. When dry and hard, peel off the paper and dig out or excavate the fake fossils you buried.

    Vocabulary
    Clay: A kind of soil made up of very fine, flat mineral particles that stick together.

    Excavate: To remove by digging or scooping

    Fossils: Remnants of plants and animals preserved in stone. Fossils are very old and are formed only under special environmental conditions.

    Paleontologist: A scientist that studies fossils.

    Trace fossils: Fossils of footprints that prehistoric animals left behind.


    Try This
    What else would you like to bury in the mud? How long do you think it would take to dry?

    Make trace fossils using small plastic or rubber animals. Would you want to make your own footprints—with or without shoes? How would you do it?

  • WXXI