Becoming a Fossil
Author: Sharon Janulaw
Overview: In this lesson students make imprints in clay using leaves or shells. They then compare those to how a fossil is formed.
Grade Span: K2
Assemble the materials.
Prepare a sample impression by pressing two colors of clay together with a leaf in between. Separate the clay layers and discard the leaf.
Time: One class period
Fossils are formed when something dies and instead of being destroyed by scavengers, weather or other forces, it is preserved. The most common form of preservation occurs when a specimen is covered by sediment, which over a long period of time, becomes rock. This most often occurs in lake or bay environments where there is not a great deal of motion in the water. Sediment gently covers the recently deceased organism and covers it with protective layers that later become rock. There are many other ways organisms or their traces can be preserved (as an insect in amber or dinosaurs covered by a landslide or flood) but in this lesson we will emphasize sedimentation.
The UCMP website has many photos of fossils.
Real fossils can often be found in nature stores or at rock shops.
Dinosaurs Walked Here and Other Stories Fossils Tell by Patricia Lauber
Explore this link for additional information on the topics covered in this lesson:
Emphasize throughout the activity that the class is making impressions of living thing. We can learn from looking at those impressions. This is similar to how we can learn from fossil imprints that we find in ancient sediments. The imprints we are making are not fossils, but they look sort of like real fossils and this helps us to learn.
Vocabulary: imprint, fossil, sediment
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