I LOVE looking at and collecting fossils. It's fun to try and picture what the organism looked like and what type of fossil it is. Students love them too! One tip from experience: Students enjoy them A LOT more if they have bigger samples to look at. I know what you're thinking... "Becca, I don't have the budget to buy a ton of large fossils." Instead of buying a bunch of kits with an assortment of small fossils, buy one large fossil of each type and have students rotate around the room to view. I also place them on rubber dissection mats (like in the image shown above) so they are better protected.
If you are an earth science teacher (or a biology teacher who is sneaking in some fossil activities during your geologic time unit) here is a list of activities to get you started!
1. In this activity, students assemble puzzle pieces to match up fossil types with their definition and a picture.
2. Digfield School has a series of fossil lesson plans that can be found here.
3. In this activity titled "The Great Fossil Find," students act like paleontologists and assemble fossil bones to determine the type of animal. It has a fun script to go along with it. My middle schoolers loved it!
4. Want to make your own fossils out of plaster of paris? Check out directions here.
5. This station lab has 8 different stations students will rotate through all dealing with fossils. They will watch a video, view virtual fossils, assemble paper bones, read about the La Brea tar pits, and more.
6. Amber fossils are super expensive to buy. If you want to show your students some fake amber fossils, you can order them from Amazon (affiliate link). Another option is to make your own with plastic insects from the dollar store and hot glue (photo courtesy @quirky_science on instagram).
Also... just for fun... you could buy some insect lollipops and see if you have some brave students that want a tasty treat!
7. As a biologist, I talk to my students about the transition from life in the ocean to land. If this is the case, shouldn't we have evidence of this in the fossil record? I enjoy this video clip of Dr. Neil Shubin's team finding the Tiktaalik fossil.
8. If you want to show students how the process of permineralization works, you can use epsom salt and a sponge to replicate the process. You can find directions and a lab worksheet here.
9. The Natural History Museum of Utah has a set of investigations where students explore a dinosaur quarry and analyze 3D virtual fossils. The investigations are comprehensive and students will get a deep dive into what it feels like to be a paleontologist exploring fossils! It's free with a teacher login, be sure to check it out!
10. The American Museum of Natural History has a drag-and-drop interactive where students sort fossil layers from oldest to youngest. Great for relative dating practice.
11. Want to teach students how we use radiometric dating to determine the absolute age of a fossil? Grab some pennies (or puzzle pieces) and follow the directions found here.
12. At africanfossils.org, students can explore virtual fossils.
13. Coprolites are fossilized dung. While that sounds pretty gross, they can be colorful and pretty! Scientists can observe coprolites and learn about what the organism ate and make inferences about their habitat. Learn how to make your own coprolite for students to explore here.
14. Here is a "fossilize me" card game from Science Friday.
If you are teaching a geology unit, be sure to check out my rocks blog post for more resources!