1.1 Students will use properties to
identify, describe, and categorize
substances, materials, and objects,
and use characteristics to
categorize living things.
What geologic conditions lead to
the formation of fossils.
Observing, analyzing, classifying,
and identifying relationships and
Students will simulate the making
1. Why was it important to have the
sand layer (sand stratum) between
the layers of clay?
2. What are some processes that
3. What sorts of fossils have you
seen in a museum or collected
4. Think about how long it took
you to make your ‘fossils’. How
does that relate to GEOLOGIC TIME.
All our science,
reality, is primitive
and childlike–and yet
it is the most precious
thing we have.
–Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Permission is granted to
photocopy this lesson. There is no copyright.
Simple Home Experiments for Bringing Geology to Life
Experiment 2: CONDENSING GEOLOGIC TIME or
The Art and Science of Making Fossils
Finding plants, animals, and
even early humans buried in the geologic strata gives
us clues to what our planet Earth was like in the past.
- Small oven-proof dish or pan
- Clay, local, natural source if you’re lucky,
otherwise play-dough or modeling clay will work
(No oil-base clays! They will burn in the oven.)
- Leaves, empty shells, dead bugs, etc.
This experiment will teach you about the process of fossil burial, preservation,
and discovery. It will give you the opportunity to think about the types of things (or
specimens) one finds buried in sediment, about the sediments and processes that preserve
these specimens as fossils, and about TIME.
- Layer the bottom of your dish with about one-half inch of the clay.
- Explore your backyard or a nearby beach and find things that might become fossilized
if they were to be buried for a few million years, making sure that whatever
you pick up is no longer alive!
- Next, press your finds gently into the clay.
- Then, cover this layer of fossils-to-be with a thin layer of sand. This is so your clay
layers will part easily after you ‘bake’ your fossils.
- Carefully add another layer (or geologic stratum) of clay to your sample. You are
now ready to dry your sediments with the buried ‘fossils’.
- MAKE SURE YOU WORK WITH AN ADULT FOR THIS NEXT STEP. Put the dish in an oven on
very low heat. You want to dry your sample slowly so it doesn’t crack. This might
take an hour or more depending on how wet the clay was.
- When the sample looks dry, VERY GENTLY remove it from the dish and pry it apart
at the sand layer.`
You should be able to see:
- Your ‘fossil’ specimens,
- The impressions made in the upper and lower clay surfaces, and
- How the sample broke along the sand layer.
Find a book about fossils at your library and look up the difference
between ‘casts’ and ‘molds’ and see if you can identify each in your sample.
Wendy Gerstel and Kitty Reed, Geologists
Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources
ScienceViews Copyright © 2003-2008 Calvin & Rosanna Hamilton. All rights reserved.