Making Your Own Fossil Prints

This lesson developed by Reach Out!

Recommended Age: Preschool and Early Elementary


What is a fossil?
Can I make a fossil print?

  What You Need (per person)

"Stone" Dough Mix "Fossils" to Imprint
 1/2 cup of salt  Twigs
 1 cup of flour  Leaves (stiff bay leaves work well)
 1/2 cup of brewed coffee (cold)  Dead, hard-shelled bugs like roly-polys
 1 cup of used coffee grounds  Seashells
 Measuring cups  Chicken bones
 Mixing spoon  Plastic dinosaur models for skin textures
   or footprints
 Mixing bowl

  What You Do

  1. Measure salt, flour, coffee, and grounds; add each to bowl; and stir together until well mixed.

  2. Turn this dough out onto a large sheet of waxed paper and knead it until smooth.

  3. Break off a piece large enough for the imprint you want to make, roll it into a ball, and use the heel of your hand to flatten it out.

  4. Press the object you wish to make a fossil imprint of firmly into the dough. You can use more than one object if you like. Carefully remove the objects to leave the prints behind. Let your fake stone dry overnight and you have an imitation fossil!

  What Is Happening

What you are doing is very much like the way real fossil prints were created. A long time ago, plants, bugs, or animals left impressions in soft mud, which dried out and eventually became rock.

Much of what we know about ancient, extinct plants and animals comes from such prints. For example, that is how we know what the texture of dinosaur skin was, and how we are still tracking down the evolution of birds—since neither skin nor feathers are likely to survive as actual fossils, the way bones do.

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Last updated 22 Mar 99