Your fifth grader will be learning all about fossils this year and the fascinating way they are created. Fossils are ancient plant, animal and microbe life that lived in the distant past and because the conditions were just right, the impression of the lifeform was preserved in stone. Sometimes a hands-on demonstration makes the whole process a litle easier to understand. In this activity you'll make your own fossils to help your kid better understand exactly how they're made in nature.
What You Need:
- White glue
- Modeling clay
- Seashell or other hard natural objects like bones, or small tree branches
What You Do:
- Have your child collect 2–3 objects like seashells, bones, tree limbs, etc.
- Place one of the selected objects on a flat surface like a table top. Press the object into the clay. The impression should not be too deep (the deeper the impression, the longer it will take for the glue to dry).
- Slowly and carefully pull the object out of the clay. Try not to have the clay stretch or smear when you remove the object. The impression of the object in the clay forms a “mold” of the object even if the object is gone.
- Next, take white glue and fill in the mold. During the creation of a real fossil, plants, animals, and other lifeforms rot beneath the soil. The space they filled is then filled with minerals from groundwater. The glue is like those minerals.
- Let the glue dry. The time it takes to dry depends on the depth of the impression.
- When the glue has dried, peel back the glue shape from the clay. The glue shape is a “cast” of the object. Many fossils are preserved as casts and molds. There might be some excess glue around the “fossil.” Cut or peel it away with scissors or your fingers. Much like the glue fossil, many natural fossils have excess material around them and have to be cleaned in order to be able to see the original fossil.
Follow up this activity with a trip to your local science museum so that your kid can see a real fossil!