Most kindergartners come to school with some knowledge of fossils. They know about dinosaurs and the bones they left behind or they may have seen fossilized insects trapped in amber. Whether your kindergartners have been to a museum to see a fossil up close, read a book about dinosaur bones or seen fish imprints in rocks, hands-on activities will help expand their fossil knowledge.
One type of fossil evidence that scientists often find is fossil imprints. These imprints may include fish bones, leaf patterns or dinosaur footprints preserved in mud that later turned to stone. Have your kindergartners create their own imprint fossils with one of these two activities.
Leaf rubbings: Place a sheet of white paper over the top of one or two leaves. Gently rub the size of a crayon over the top of the paper to pick up the outline and vein patterns of the leaves below. These rubbings resemble designs left behind by plants in fossils.
Clay footprints: Provide students with a small piece of modeling clay. Have students flatten out the clay into a smooth sheet then search for objects they can press into the clay to leave impressions. Have other students take turns figuring out what object left the imprint in the modeling clay.
Archeologists take great care in searching for and removing fossils from archeological sites. Create your own archeological dig within the classroom with one of these two activities.
Dino Dig: Fill a sand table with sand and bury small objects such as plastic dinosaur toys, sticks, plastic eggs or other small objects in the sand. Supply students with toothbrushes, paintbrushes or plastic spoons to gently uncover fossil evidence in the sand. For added fun, place a large sheet of chart paper on the floor for students to draw the location of each of their finds in the sand table.
Chocolate chip cookie excavations: Provide each student with a chocolate chip cookie, toothpick and napkin. Have students excavate the chocolate chip cookies using the toothpick to break away the cookie without breaking the chips. Have students compare how many chips or fossils their cookie contained. Best of all, students can eat the leftovers.
When archeologists find dinosaur bones, they often have to reconstruct the dinosaurs into the models we see in museums. Some bones may be missing or damaged beyond repair; some bones are found jumbled up into a puzzle. Have students work as archeologists to reconstruct a dinosaur with these activities.
Toothpick dinosaurs: Show students pictures of dinosaur bones. Talk about the different bony parts of dinosaur skeletons such as bones, armored plates and horns. Provide students with an outline of a dinosaur such as a T. Rex, Apatosaurus or Stegosaurus. Have students use toothpicks to glue down arm bones, leg bones, ribs and other bony parts that belong to their dinosaur. Allow for students to creatively reconstruct their dinosaur skeleton and ask why they included certain bones in certain places.
Pasta dinosaurs: Similar to the toothpick dinosaurs, have students use different shapes of pasta to recreate a dinosaur on paper. Provide spaghetti, penne pasta, wagon wheel pasta and various other pasta shapes for students to glue down.
Amber fossils provide great examples of preserved plants and insects from prehistoric times. These fossils were created when plant debris or insects became trapped in a tree's resin or sap. When the resin hardened, amber colored fossils were left behind. Have students recreate their own amber fossils to take home. Pour of bottle of white glue into a small bowl and tint with yellow and orange food coloring until it has an amber hue. Give each student a small 3-inch square of foil. Have students place a small amount of glue in the middle of the foil. Then set a small object such as a piece of pasta, small rock or bit of a leaf in the glue. Continue to cover the sizes and top of objects with glue. Let the glue set and harden. If needed, add more glue to the top and sides of the objects as the glue dries for complete coverage. Allow the glue to completely dry overnight. Peel away the foil to view your amber fossil.
Fossils of dinosaur bones help scientists determine the size of many dinosaurs. For example, Brachiosaurus and Supersaurus measured about 100 feet long while Austrosaurus came in around 50 feet. Some of the smallest dinosaurs, such as Compsognathus, measured about 3 feet long. Have students use yardsticks or tape measures to map out the lengths of their favorite dinosaurs on the playground. You can also have student work on patterning or sorting with dinosaur counters. Give students a handful of dinosaur counters and have them sort them by attributes such as color or shape. They may also use the dinosaur counters to create patterns such as red dinosaur, blue dinosaur, red dinosaur and blue dinosaur.
Celebrate your learning of fossils and dinosaurs by singing the traditional song "Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?" Instead of using student names as the person who stole the cookie, have students supply a dinosaur name. As students come up with dinosaur names for the song, record these on chart paper as a reminder of all the dinosaurs students learned about through their studies.
- fossilized seashells image by PHOTOFLY from Fotolia.com