In this set of activities adaptable for grades K-3, parents and educators will find ideas for teaching about fossils. These activities are designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. Fossils topic page, which includes a movie, quizzes, online games, printable activities, and more.
Classroom Activities for Teaching About Fossils
Remind your students that scientists use clues from fossils to identify the plant or animal and learn about how it lived. Bring in clay or putty to your class and have them make a footprint or a handprint. Then mix the prints together and have students figure out who made each print. What clues can they use to figure out the answer? For example, if students are examining a footprint, what kind of shoe might have made it, a sneaker or a loafer? If there is a ring-mark on a handprint, which student is wearing a matching ring? Students can narrow down the possible answers by examining their classmates. Encourage students to share their ideas and theories with the whole class.
Natural History Museum
If possible, take your students on a trip to a natural history museum. Have your students bring sketchpads and notebooks to draw fossils that interest them and write their thoughts on how the fossil came to be or how it was found. Have them note any fascinating facts. Many museums offer tours or have experts available to talk to classes. Make sure your students come prepared with questions to ask. After the trip, discuss what your students have learned. Have them share their drawings and notes and talk about their favorite fossils.
Nearly every state has a state fossil. Research your state’s fossil together and learn more by visiting the library, looking up information in the Internet, or asking an expert. Where in the state can the fossil be found? How and when was it selected? Have students gather information and share what they learned. Then have each student pick a state and study the state’s fossil. Students can draw a picture of it and write facts about the fossil. Together, create a map of the United States using pictures of the fossils.
Family and Homeschool Activities for Teaching About Fossils
Fossils at Home
Go fossil hunting with your child! Fossils can be found everywhere, even in your own backyard or in your own town. Find local areas where fossils have been found. Many communities have fossil enthusiasts who know the best places to find fossil plants and animals. Riverbeds and creeks are great places to find fossils because water erodes the sediment and the earth is soft enough to expose fossils.
Make Your Own Fossil
Help your child collect a few items to “fossilize” like leaves, feathers, pine needles, shells, even chicken bones. Then make a bowl shape out of aluminum foil. Fill the bowl half way with plaster of Paris and press your items into the wet plaster. Wait 20-30 minutes until the plaster is mostly dry and remove your objects carefully. As your child to imagine what paleontologists of the future might learn from this fossil about plants and animals of our time.