Alaska fossil

One of the most complete thalattosaur fossils in the world was found in Alaska!


The summer is a perfect time for fossil hunting.  When we lived in Washington, I took my kids to the John Day painted mountains.  Digging for fossils there was always fun because they were assured that they woulpainted-hills-273451__180d find something.  Kicking off a unit with a camping and hiking trip is great motivation for the whole family.

Make sure everyone has their writing journal.  There will be many opportunities to write, even if they are only adding notes or brief thoughts.  Remember that in order to make writing a comfortable part of their lives, your kids need to get used to bringing their journals with them everywhere they go.  By the end of the year, or whenever they fill it up, it should be tattered and dog-eared. Another terrific indication that you are doing it right!

I am including a link here to a free geology unit.  This unit is very well done, with many options and plenty of wiggle room to adjust it to most ages.

ancient-165001_960_720Though I have not personally used this unit, I have studied it and find it to be a terrific resource.  Just copy and paste.

For your younger kiddos, a lapbook is fun.  My older kids liked them as well, so I just required more in-depth analysis for them.  The only aspect of a lapbook I would caution you on is that they are pretty and easily organized, but make sure they become more than just cute.  I usually required more research and documentation for my older kids.  Click here for a  wonderful resource for free lapbooks ideas and templates.

Another great free resource for Lapbooking through rocks and fossils.

Fossils have never failed to spark enthusiasm for learning in my kids.  I have seen kids of all ages, otherwise hesitant to write, become completely captivated with the process of uncovering a fossil buried in rocks.  Often, when the interest is ignited, writing becomes much easier.

A fun direction to go in connecting kids to the history of our planet is to allow them to imagine the situation of ancient life, while examining current habitats and species that will become fossils in the future.


Fossils inspire all sorts of questions.  Consider the following possibilities:

How old is this? (Leading to the study of the Earth’s history.)

What kind of animal was this? (Leading to zoology and species classification.)

Where did it live? (Leading to habitats past and present, including botany.)

How did it live? (Leading to a study of vital functions–more zoology.)

How did it form? (Back to a study of geology and earth science.)

An entire language arts curriculum can be created around fossils.


  • Math – geologic time periods offer opportunities for scientific notation, exponents, scale (when placed on a timeline) and fossils-255547_960_720comparisons between lifespans.  Geometric shapes in shells, fractals or tessellations.  The number of possibilities is only limited by imagination.
  • Biology – classifications, developmental changes and adaptations to the environment, vital functions, predator-prey relationships.
  • Geology – were fossils from the ocean floor, a swampy bog, a riverbed?
  • Creative writing – imagine what created the fossils and how they lived.  A day in the life of . . .
  • Many other writing projects from research to presentation boards.
  • Include a trip to the museum if you have one nearby.  Check out their fossils!

Fossils inspire the imagination about materials and the situation that may have created them.  As a teaching tool, fossils provide an endless promise of topics to study.

I would begin with the basics – how fossils are formed.  There are several ideas online, but my favorite was simply to makefossil-1311891_960_720 their own.   To really bring your lessons about fossils to life, show your kids how to make one of their own.  All you’ll need is some air-dry clay and a small object like a toy dinosaur, plastic fly, leaves, pinecone, needles. Roll out the clay on a piece of wax paper and place the item inside. Then, form the clay into a ball and let it sit for a week so it can harden. You can then break it apart and remove the toy to reveal your very own fossil!

During the drying process, describe how fossils are formed by layers of sediment covering plants or animals.  After many years, everything dissolves leaving the rock that hardened around the object.  The fossil is essentially a copy of the bones/structure of the plants or animals.

 This is a link to highschool level geology unit.  It might take a bit of prep but seems like a pretty solid and thorough unit.

None of the sites I mentioned above are affiliate sites, so I get no compensation for sending you to them.  I just found them very interesting and informative.

Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions.  Have a terrific time digging for fossils on your next camping trip!



Attribution for fossils

photo credit: <a href=”″>Canon 223</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>


Attribution for fossil

photo credit: <a href=”″>Fossils in Rock</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

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2 Replies to “Fossils”

  1. You have very interesting ideas here. Most of the time, it’s very hard to get students to learn something that they have no genuine interest in. But your tips might just work very well.

    It’s really cool how you try to turn a rather scientific trip, into one that is filled with creativity, but remains educational at the same time. Thanks for this awesome article!

    1. Farhan

      I found that it was important to keep the kids interested in material to make it easier on myself. If they were interested, I didn’t have to work so hard to get them to complete the assignment!

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