Take a look at actual fossils and discover the clues hidden within that will help you learn something about life millions of years ago. Students will excavate their own prehistoric animals and plants, learn about the planet’s various geologic processes and follow along in the story of fossilization. Register today!
Cost: $5 per student
Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations, Science v.1.09
- Identify and describe natural causes of change in the Earth’s surface. (E.SE.03.22)
- Explain how fossils provide evidence of the history of the earth. (E.ST.04.31)
- Compare and contrast life forms found in fossils and organisms that exist today. (E.ST.04.32)
- Describe how fossils provide evidence about how living things and environmental conditions have changed. (L.EV.05.13)
- Explain how rocks and fossils are used to understand the age and geological history of the earth (timelines and relative dating, rock layers). (E.ST.06.31)
- Describe how fossils provide important evidence of how life and environmental conditions have changed. (E.ST.06.42)
Next Generation Science Standards
ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth
- Some events happen very quickly; others occur very slowly, over a time period much longer than one can observe.
- Local, regional, and global patterns of rock formations reveal changes over time due to earth forces, such as earthquakes. The presence and location of certain fossil types indicate the order in which rock layers were formed.
LS4.A: Evidence of Common Ancestry and Diversity
- Some kinds of plants and animals that once lived on Earth are no longer found anywhere.
- Fossils provide evidence about the types of organisms that lived long ago and also about the nature of their environments.
LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans
- There are many different kinds of living things in any area, and they exist in different places on land and in water.
ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems
- Rainfall helps to shape the land and affects the types of living things found in a region. Water, ice, wind, living organisms, and gravity break rocks, soils, and sediments into smaller particles and move them around.
During Your Visit to the ScienceWorks Lab students will be expected to:
- Sit in tables of 6 students and (at least) 1 adult
- Students should be prepared to give their attention to the Lab instructors when requested to “Give Me Five”
- Work cooperatively with one another at the table
- Follow the hands-on procedures just as the Lab teacher or assistant explains them
- Handle materials and equipment carefully
It is important that teachers and chaperones:
- Help to focus the students’ attention
- Assist students with the hands-on activities and experiments when necessary
- Turn off cell phones and pagers during the class
Post-visit activities will help reiterate new concepts and tie the ScienceWorks Lab experience to your classroom curriculum. Below you will find a classroom activity and a list of suggested resources for further information. We hope that you enjoyed your field trip. Visit us again!
Hands-on Activity: Make a Fossil Materials
- 1 or 2 small paper cups per student (bathroom cups work well)
- Modeling clay or moist sand
- Plaster of Paris
- Small re-sealable plastic bags
- Small items (shells, marbles, etc.)
- To pre-prep the Plaster, place 4 spoons of powder into a small re-sealable plastic bags. (Attention! Plaster of Paris can be dangerous to inhale.) Make enough for 1 bag per student.
- Have each participant fill their paper cup about ½ ways with clay or moist sand. (Modeling clay usually works much better than sand. If you have to use sand, pre-moisten it so that it holds its shape when you press your finger into it.)
- Carefully press your object into the clay or sand to make an impression. Carefully remove it. If you don’t see an impression, smooth over the clay and try again. If you use sand, make sure it is not too wet or too dry, otherwise it won’t hold the impression.
- Add one spoon of water to your plastic bag and mix it into the plaster by massaging the outside of the bag. Continue to add a small amount of water to the plaster until it is about the consistency of pancake batter.
- Cut the corner off the bag and carefully squeeze the plaster into your cup.
- Let the plaster settle overnight.
- Carefully rip the paper away from the plaster and lift the solid chunk off of the clay. You can reuse the clay without any trouble.
What you have just made is a mold or a cast fossil. The plaster filled in the depression and took the shape of your original object. A variation of this experiment can be done if you leave the original object poking out of the clay or sand with the “interesting” side up. Before you pour the plaster over this, it is a good idea to spray it with butter (or substitute). This will help you get the object out of the plaster smoothly. After your plaster dries, peal away the paper cup and you’ll have an impression fossil.
The fossils that you’ve made took about a day to form. In real life, the time involved is over 10,000 years and the likelihood of a fossil forming is very rare. Encourage a discussion about the meaning of “geologic time” and have students construct a geologic time scale to display in your classroom.
DK Publishing. Fossil. DK Children. 2004.
Aliki. Fossils Tell of Long Ago. Harper Trophy. 1990.
Perrault, Chris. The Best Book of Fossils, Rocks and Minerals. Kingfisher. 2000.
Blobaum, Cindy and Michael Kline. Geology Rocks!: 50 Hands-On Activities to Explore the Earth. Williamson Publishing Company. 1999.