Kid's Activity: Create Your Own Fossil!

by Melissa Jaramillo and Julie Snyder

What is a fossil anyway? Fossils offer us clues about life in the past -- even years and years ago! Normally when a plant or animal dies, its remains either decay or perhaps are consumed by another animal. Sometimes though before that happens the conditions can be just right and the remains become buried and preserved.

Fossils are like a photograph -- capturing either as an imprint or at times the whole remains of what existed in the past...plant life, animals, even clues to changes in environments! Did you know that even in the driest desert of Wyoming there are fossils of ocean life, dinosaurs, and plants that certainly you wouldn't find today in a arid (dry) climate.

Almost all fossils are found in sedimentary rock. This type of rock is made of layers of sand, silt, dirt, and clay that becomes packed together, then hardens over millions of years. Fossils have also been found in petrified wood -- a really cool find!

Activity -- Let's Go Hunt for Fossils!

Fossils can be found almost everywhere. Most often however you will have the best luck searching where there are natural rock formations, along the banks of rivers or streams, or in mountain regions or deserts.

You may also want to look where a road has been cut through a cliff. Look closely at the rocks you find. One of the most common types of fossils to find are shells. Just imagine, that shell was likely a home to a creature that lived a long time ago! You may also find fossilized fish, snails, leaves, or feathers!

Try to sketch or photograph your fossils and write a description of each. Be sure to include what clues your fossil finds gave you about the life or environment that existed long ago! (Parents, if your child is too young to write do it for them! Young children's insight can be amazingly clear!)

Let's Make Our Own!

Materials Needed:
• 1 cup of Flour
• 1 cup of used coffee grounds
• ½ - ¾ cup of coffee (cold)
• ½ cup of salt
• Wax Paper
• Items (small) to create the impressions for your fossil. (Suggestions: small twigs, sturdy leaves, jewelry pieces, feathers, shells, etc.)
• Drinking Glass, can, large geometric shape cookie cutters, or butter knife (choose one of the above at least ½ inch larger than your *fossil* shape)

Directions:
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the first four ingredients listed above (flour, coffee grounds, salt, and coffee, adding the coffee until you reach a consistency that will mold together well.) Knead the dough until smooth and then roll flat on wax paper. Use overturned drinking glass, can, or cookie cutters, or knife, to cut out a block for your fossil. Next, press your item firmly into the dough then remove carefully. If you are planning to hang up your completed project later punch a hole through using a toothpick or similar object. Bake your *fossil* at 315°F for approximately 15 - 45 minutes (depends on the thickness of your dough) or until hardened.

*Hints and Tips*:

  • Try covering your dough with another piece of wax paper and flatten by hand or roller. This helps keep it from sticking and stays smooth.
  • Choose objects that while not delicate, have fine detail (such as the back of a shell or the veins of a leaf)
  • Tie on a ribbon to display your finished fossil

Julie Snyder is a mom of six, interested in kids, pregnancy, birth, people and lives in the outlying Seattle area. Melissa Jaramillo is mom to many. She's passionate about building, encouraging, and strengthening families on this adventure known as parenthood!

Copyright © Melissa Jaramillo and Julie Snyder. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.