Bringing a Fossil Dig Into the Classroom

January 24, 2011

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Big Bend National Park is one of my favorite places on earth. Just look at that big peaceful sky. I can’t wait to return and fill myself with that peaceful feeling again.

When visiting Big Bend, we spend our days hiking and exploring. We have made many fascinating discoveries. One of our waddlee-ah-chaa philosophies is to get children out into the world to experience life. But equally important is to bring the world and the outdoors into the classroom or home for children to experience up-close and personal. Not all children have opportunities to get out into the world. So I try to bring the world to them!

On my trips to Big Bend I often find fossils. Since MacGyver is big into prehistoric life and fossils, I had a brainstorm for the Pre-K classroom. This week the class is studying tools. Based on this study, I set-up a fossil dig in the sensory tub.

Step 1 – Sensory Tub Introduction: During circle time the children passed around my fossils from Big Bend.

As they examined the fossils, I introduced vocabulary: fossils, paleontologist, dig, excavate, tools, paint brushes, sifter, gentle.

We talked about the tools paleontologists use and how slowly and gently they must dig out and handle fossils.

Step 2 – Center Time Exploration: Two at a time, the children take turns using the tools to excavate fossils. The sensory tub will be set-up throughout the week for the children to take turns exploring.

Gently, gently the dirt is brushed away from a fossil imprint of a sea creature that once lived in Big Bend.

The children were thrilled to use tools like real paleontologists and to unearth and handle real fossils. And for someone who is  passionate about the education of young children, this experience of bringing outdoor fossil exploration into the classroom was a thrilling learning experience.

Thank you to MacGyver for giving me a new way to look at tools. And for jump-starting my out-of-the box thinking about tools.

In our “at school” section we have a striking dinosaur book GIVEAWAY: Wings, Horns, and Claws by Christopher Wormell.

What is one of your favorite “outdoor” sensory tub explorations?

Life with Joyce


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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea January 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Super Cool!

katepickle January 24, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Very cool! I wish I was in your class, I want to play!

maryanne January 24, 2011 at 8:50 pm

This is a great activity! I’ve seen things like this in museums, but never in a classroom =)

Caz January 25, 2011 at 7:04 am

So fun, I would have loved to do a fossil dig at school!

Martianne January 25, 2011 at 2:16 pm

We have been loving excavating dino figurines from ice blocks here.

Robin January 25, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Great Idea! I have fossils from my many hikes around Texas I think I will try this with my children. Thank you for sharing.

Shae January 26, 2011 at 1:41 am

What a fantastic idea! Will be filing it away in the “folder of fun stuff to do”

Christie-Childhood 101 January 31, 2011 at 8:00 am

What a great way to bring learning to life.

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