Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fossil Footprints

I'm really proud of this activity - it's one I came up with on my own.  Maybe someone else out there has done it, but I didn't know about it when I tried it!

This is an activity in which students can make their own fossils - fossils of footprints.

The most difficult part of this activity is locating the rubber stamps to use.  I thought the set pictured above came from Ward's Natural Science, but I cannot find it there or at any of the other suppliers I've used.  Amazon does have a similar set here; they are clear plastic stamps instead of wooden stamps, but that shouldn't make a difference.

The good news is, once you acquire the stamps to use, you'll be set for as many times as you wish to do this!

Each student will need:
--A small piece of clay
--A small piece of Model Magic or other air-dry clay or Play-Doh*
--A length of lanyard

To make the fossils:
--Flatten the piece of regular clay into a pancake.
--Use the stamps to make footprint impressions in the clay pancake.  I like to keep my designs simple with just one type of footprint, but your students will likely want to try as many as they can!

--Use your fingers to flatten the piece of Model Magic into a pancake about the same size as the clay.
--Place the Model Magic pancake on top of the clay pancake. 
--Gently push the Model Magic onto the clay, rubbing your finger over the entire surface.

--Use a skewer or the tip of a pen to make a small hole in the Model Magic.
--Place in a safe spot to dry.*
--When dry, pull the clay away from the Model Magic.  The clay can be saved to use again next time - store in a plastic bag.
--Observe the fossil footprint you made.

--Thread the lanyard through the fossil and wear proudly!

*Model Magic clay dries very quickly - in a day or so, which is really nice for this project.  However, it can be on the expensive side, so I started to experiment with other alternatives.  I found that Play-Doh fits the bill, however, it takes quite a few days to dry out until it's hard (which is funny, because the Play-Doh that gets left out around my house always seems to dry out in record time.... ).  There is another advantage to the Play-Doh, once it's finally dry, it's hard!  The Model Magic remains kind of flexible, and if the students pull on it, the lanyard will rip right out. 

BTW, you don't have to use footprint stamps.  You could use any other kind of stamp or use other random objects to make impressions.  I just happened to have the stamps, but I do think they add a certain realism to the project.

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