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Fossils > Unit Outline
Students perform a "fossil" dig for chocolate chips.
This activity has been adapted from the
National Park activity.
Activity available in PDF format
Fossils in Time
How do you dig up a
Fossils are imbedded
in rocks. What are the techniques for excavating a
fossil from rock?
Paleontology, like archaeology, involves fieldwork, including
excavation -- the digging of fossils and ancient artifacts from the
ground. The work is very painstaking and detailed, requiring
patience, skill, and the ability to focus in on a small area for a
long period of time.
Paleontologists typically use dental tools, like metal picks and
scrapers, and brushes for their excavation work. They also use
trowels when they are sure there are no small objects in an area
that could be damaged. They may work years or even decades
excavating a single site. Archaeologists have worked on a single
site in Egypt since 1928 and they are still finding new information.
Cookies - one of each type for each
Hard chocolate chip cookie
Soft chocolate chip cookie
Hard raisin cookie
Soft raisin cookie
Paper towels, 2 for each student
Toothpicks, 6 for each student
each student one of each type of cookie, two paper towels, and six
the students excavating in the hard cookies to extract the chocolate
chips or raisins using only the toothpicks. If they break a
toothpick so that it is no longer sharp, they can no longer use it.
It must be discarded.
3 to 5 minutes, stop and find out if anyone was successful in
extracting anything. As a class, review the Discussion Questions,
them excavate with the soft cookies using the same rules.
3 to 5 minutes, stop and find out if the students were more or less
successful in extracting chips or raisins. Review the Discussion
Questions again. How did the results differ between the hard and
the soft cookies?
What is the condition
of the chips and raisins extracted? Were they whole or broken? Are
there bits of cookies still clinging to them or are they relatively
What was it like trying to remove the
raisins and/or chips from the extremely firm cookie?
Did students get
different results from the chips versus the raisins?
Has anyone used up all
their toothpicks already?
Excavating raisins or chocolate chips from a cookie is similar to
the work paleontologists do in the field, but working in a classroom
is much different from excavating fossils on your hands and knees in
the hot sun. To give your students a more realistic feel for
paleontology fieldwork, bury some items in a school garden or other
area where digging is acceptable, and have them excavate the items.
This time, instead of toothpicks, provide them with screwdrivers and
a garden trowel.