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Fossils for Kids - DIY Dig Kits, Books, etc


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Hi, I've just struck up a new interest in fossils (thanks Thermopolis, WY!) and I want to share it with my nephews (6 of them!). I know the fossil sorting kits you buy don't have the most exciting of specimens (Ammonite, brachiopod, clam, coprolite, coral, crinoid stem, crinoid star, dinosaur bone, gastropod, orthoceras, petrified wood, sea urchin, shark teeth, stingray teeth, and fish vertebrae), but I thought it would be a fun start if I bought a pack of them to make some DIY dig kits. The recipe I found for it is 1 part plaster of paris, 1 part water, 2 parts sand, though I'm open to other suggestions if someone  knows a better mix! http://longlivelearning.com/2012/11/homemade-geology-dig-kit/#comment-164564

 

A few questions:

Will the plaster mix damage the fossils?

What is the best way to clean off the excess plaster once the kids dig them out? I've heard vinegar, is that safe/will it work?

Can you recommend some other inexpensive but interesting fossil types that I could buy to mix in?

Anyone have fossil/dinosaur/prehistoric life book recommendations for ages 4 - 9?

 

 

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I seriously would not recommend Plaster of Paris

( hardens waaay to much! ) You will break fossils trying to "excavate" them.

Get yourself some drywall powder to make the mix.

I used to make up kits for sale in my selling days. One contained shark teeth, one of  brachiopods and another of mixed items. Each kit would have about six different spieces in them.

They were quite popular. Each kit would come with a cast rock ( molded from a real rock ), a dig tool

( pointed on one end, chisel tipped on the other), a small brush with dig instructions and a chart of what different fossils will be found.

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I_gotta_rock

I used a National Geographic plastic dino puzzle for summer camp. I mixed all the pieces into the wet "matrix" and the kid went to town. Not only did they get to dig things out, but they had to figure out how the pieces fit together, just like a real paleontologist would (minus the extensive gluing, of course!)

 

As for books, here are some of my favorites. These were taken off of my I Gotta Rock Facebook page. I have a few games and things on the site, too, but haven't posted much on the education side of things in the last month, so you have to scroll down to the bottom of the three-month-old page web site for those.

 

Good Reads for Any Age
For those who want to expand their understanding beyond the curious rocks in the back yard and naming all the dinosaurs in picture books, here are some fun books to check out:
  1. 1Stone Girl, Bone Girl: The Story of Mary Anning of Lyme Regis, by Lawrence Anholt with illustrations by Sheila Moxley -- not just a nice description of an early paleontologist, but a story about a character kids can really identify with 
  2. 2Barnum's Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World, by Tracey Fern and Boris Kulikov
  3. 3Boy Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs! by Kathleen V. Kudlinski and S.D. Schindler -- From mistaking ancient dino skeletons for remains of living dragons, to mistakes in physiology, we've really changed our minds about the nature of dinosaurs!
  4. 4Jurassic Poop: What Dinosaurs (and Others) Left Behind
    by Jacob Berkowitz and Steve Mack -- Dinosaurs plus the gross-out factor, what's not to love?
  5. 5When Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life Long Before Dinosaurs
    by Hannah Bonner -- This is the first of a series of National Geographic Kids book. Borrow the whole set from the library for a rainy day!
  6. 6Tales of Prehistoric Life
    by Daniel Loxton and Jim W.W. Smith -- This series of picture books really brings prehistoric ecology to life with amazing digital illustrations
  7. 7Super Simple Fossil Projects: Science Activities for Future Paleontologists (Super Simple Earth Investigations)
    by Jessie Alkire - Just a few simple projects. I had had a class of Middle School students totally engrossed in "permineralizing" sponges using Alkire's directions, but younger kids can certainly enjoy these projects with varying degrees of adult supervision.
  8. 8And for a much longer read, dear grown-ups: The Dragon Seekers: How an Extraordinary Circle of Fossilists Discovered the Dinosaurs and Paved the Way for Darwin
    by Christopher Mcgowan -- Follows the discoveries of several 19-th century British paleontologists and their struggles to bring people around to the notion that the world used to be a very different place.

I just got a copy of She Found Fossils by Maria Leone Gold and Abagail Rosemary West and thoroughly enjoyed it, too. It is a children's compendium of women paleontologists past, present and future (students) from all over the world, studying all kinds of things one might not think of, like the evolution of fossil brains.

 

 

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I_gotta_rock

Oh, and the National Park Service offers downloadable workbooks for ages 5-12 for their Junior Paleontologist program. If you send them the workbooks after you complete it, they will send you a very nice, wooden JR Paleontologist shield pin. https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossils/junior-paleontologist.htm

 

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minnbuckeye

@Bev, thought you might like the suggestions for your educational programs!

 

Mike

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@caldigger Thanks for the suggestions! Do you happen to remember the ratios you used with the drywall powder and did you have to mix any sand or anything else with it? Definitely don’t want to damage the fossils!

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2 hours ago, RobinM said:

@caldigger Thanks for the suggestions! Do you happen to remember the ratios you used with the drywall powder and did you have to mix any sand or anything else with it? Definitely don’t want to damage the fossils!

I didn't have to add sand. It's OK if you want to have additional texture to the matrix, but mine were supposed to be rocks, so no.

  I did add coloring (very small amount of acrylic paint to give each "rock" an individual color).

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Mark Kmiecik

You can create individual rocks with single specimens or slabs with multiples. You can use food coloring, mixing red and green to give it believable shades of beiges and browns, or acrylic paint of any color. Throw in some sand, gravel, pebbles, whatever. Take pictures of the fossils before you mix them in the slurry so the kids can see what they're looking for. Don't worry about breaking the fossils you use for this since they are extremely common, probably not in the best state of preservation and therefore easily replaceable. Let the kids learn from their mistakes -- oops, I broke it and now I know what not to do. Let them break them now instead of when they're working on that once-in-a-lifetime find. Play some fossil hunting music as you search and don't forget to smile.

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1 hour ago, Mark Kmiecik said:

Play some fossil hunting music as you search.

So I guess The Bee Gees- "Stay'n Alive"

Is not appropriate?  :P

 

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Mark Kmiecik
2 minutes ago, caldigger said:

So I guess The Bee Gees- "Stay'n Alive"

Is not appropriate?  :P

 

Nope -- but anything by the Grateful Dead will work.:heartylaugh:

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  • 1 month later...
On 4/17/2019 at 8:34 AM, minnbuckeye said:

@Bev, thought you might like the suggestions for your educational programs!

 

Mike

Thanks Mike! This thread is GREAT!  :-D  Just had a wonderful group of families with lots of kids out on Saturday through Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center. It was a great day with 9 adults and 6 kids and hugs all around at the end. And some great finds! Those kids have such sharp eyes! Here are a couple of pics.  :-D  And I let the kids feed the baby goats. What a blast!

6.1.19 sandbox.jpg

6.1.19 trilo girl.jpg

6.1.19 goats.jpg

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