Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Prehistory – Part 2 Fossils

We continued our prehistory study by learning about Fossils.  What they are, how they are made and how they are found.

First we read about fossils in our Usborne Internet Linked Encyclopedia of World History.  This book has wonderful pictures and brief text – the perfect combination to keep my kids interest.

We also read from the DK Eyewitness Books Prehistoric Life.

We learned about what tools paleontologists use to find fossils by doing a page out of our Junior Paleontologists Activity Book and then playing a game of Dig that Dinosaur.

Dig that Dinosaur was one of the games in a Scholastic Ebook I bought during their dollar days – Quick and Easy Learning Games: Science.  In this game, each player is attempting to gather tools and get to the dinosaurs skull first.  The directions say to use a spinner but I’ve never had a homemade spinner work well so we used dice.  It also has each player collect three tools.  I made an extra copy of the tools and had each player gather all six and discuss what each was used for.   I laminated the game in a file folder and we used plastic dinosaurs as pieces.
For the next activity, we used the Safari Ancient Fossils Toob (I love the Toob’s) along with the real fossils they were able to get at the museum during the Rock and Mineral Weekend, and some sea shells.   I wanted to do a semi-realistic dig site outside for the kids.   Thanks to pre-construction activities our yard is currently all dirt and rocks.  Perfect for a dig.  Unfortunately, though we finally had some warmer temperatures, it rained every day this week.  So, I went with plan B and we had a “dig” in our rice bin.   There were a few plastic acorns in there left over from our Fall Sensory Bin but I left them figuring that some junk is usually dug up at any site. 

Both kids had fun searching for the fossils.   Vicki really had fun pretending to dig for the fossils and then brushing them clean as they were found.  She re-buried them at least twice and found them all again.  Georgie was only interested in finding them once and then looking up what they were on the information sheet that came with the Toob.
The tools we used for our dig and what we found…
We learned about how fossils are formed and the different types of fossils by doing the first few activities in our Magic School Bus Back In Time With the Dinosaurs science kit.  We learned about True Form Fossils, Mold Fossils, Cast Fossils and Trace Fossils.  We used the kit contents to (attempt to) make samples of Mold, Cast and Trace fossils but they didn’t come out too well.  I think I may have added too much water to the plaster of paris mixture.
We also went to our local museum for the first activity in honor of the opening of the newly expanded dinosaur exhibit – making a coffee ground fossil.   First, we gathered our sediments (coffee, flour, salt), then the river water came…
and swirled them all together.  Only Vicki was willing to put her hands in there and stir it all up.
The river dried up and left behind mud.  Sea creatures died and their shells settled down and made impressions in the soft mud.
Then over millions of years (or the next day), the mud hardened into rock with an impression of the shell in it.

While at the museum we were able to examine some fossils in the Rock & Mineral collection.
We learned more about the conditions needed for fossils to form by playing the Burying Bodies game, which allows you to move a dinosaur body to different places (side of a volcano, beach, river, ocean) to find out whether its a good place for it to turn into a fossil.

We played The Road to Fossilization game from the Junior Paleontologists Activity Book which I laminated in a file folder.   We used some fossils from our Toob as pieces and rolled a die instead of flipping a coin as suggested.  Even numbers moved 2 spaces and odd numbers moved 3 spaces.  The game gave information on how fossils are formed and some of the things that can prevent formation.
During our study we also watched The Magic School Bus Shows and Tells and an episode of Sci Girls on Digging Archeology.

Books we read:
Fossils Tell of Long Ago (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)Fossils: Clues to Ancient Life (Rocks, Minerals, and Resources)
Coming up next:  A brief overview of Evolution before we start on the first life on Earth.


  1. How much fun are you guys having!

  2. That'll teach me for not actually looking at the Scholastic Dollar Days downloads. That looks like so much fun.