Making Model Fossils

2 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT understand how fossils were made from imprints by making their own models.

Big Idea

After learning how fossils are made over time, students get to make their own by imprinting various objects, to make their own models!

Teacher Preparation

We have already learned quite a bit about rocks and minerals, and we have even looked at some real fossils! In this lesson, my students make models of fossils using 'Model Magic' clay and we make a literature connection! This lesson aligns to Essential Standard 1.E.2.1, Summarize the physical properties of Earth materials, including rocks, minerals, soils, and water that make them useful in different ways. By creating models of fossils, students will further understand that humans learn more about our history by studying the impressions and organisms found in fossils. Listen to my


*A small ball of 'Model Magic' or some other soft clay for each student

*Different types of pasta to make the imprints with

*The book If You are a Hunter of Fossils by Byrd Baylor

Warm Up

20 minutes

Since we have already been studying fossils and my students have some background knowledge, to start this lesson I ask my students,

"What are fossils? What are some examples of fossils?"

I let them tell me what they know, and then I ask,

"Why are they so important?"

Since the Essential Standard specifies that we learn about rocks in order to understand their usefulness, students need to articulate that fossils are a window into our past! The imprints tell use about plants and animals and insects that lived thousands of years ago.

Then, I say,

"Now, I am going to read you a text that is a very 'quiet' story. It is written like a poem and it has beautiful pictures with some hidden things. Sit quietly and see if you can find the hidden pictures by yourself as I read".

As I read, I stop to give my students time to really enjoy the illustrations as well as to understand the words. This text really supports RL 1.4, "Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses", and so I stop every 2-3 pages and ask how what feelings the words are making the students have or how they think the author felt when she wrote that page.

After the reading, I say,

"Now, are you a hunter of fossils? I am! Today you are going to also be a creator of fossils - at least a model of a fossil!"


15 minutes

To get the students started making their fossil, I quickly show them the Model Magic clay and explain that they can try to imprint with the pasta and then take the pasta out and ball up the clay and do it again - the clay stays soft for about 2 days until it dries out. I explain that students can use the pasta to make imprints and they can also use other things at their tables, like pencils and the outside of their glue sticks, to see what other impressions they can make. Then, they can take their finished fossil model home.

As students work at their tables, I walk around and ask what type of plants or animals could have make certain types of imprints. Then I follow up with "Is that a real fossil?" Students must clarify that this is a model of a fossil and not a real one! I try to trick them, but no one falls for it! Making models of fossils supports Science and Engineering Practice 2.

After about 15 minutes, I ask students to show me their final fossil model. I take pictures, which I print and give to them later to add to their science journals. Then I say,

"Now, good scientists always record their work. So, please take the next few minutes and record your fossil model by drawing and labeling a detailed diagram in your journal".

Then, we put them in Ziploc bags and the kids take them home!

Wrap Up

5 minutes

Once we have finished writing in our journals, I ask everyone to come to the carpet and I ask my class,

"What did you think about making your fossil models?"

Of course, they loved it! Then I asked,

"What is the Difference Between a Model and a Real Fossil?"

I think they know what I am getting at, because they quickly inform me that real fossils are thousands of years old and we just made ours today! I want to make it clear that the Model Magic and the pasta are just tools that we use to represent a natural object and that they are not actually the fossils. Again, clarifying the difference between models and the actual objects supports Practice 2. Discussing and sharing our ideas and supports Practice 8, as we tie in our experiences from the day as well as previous lessons about fossils and rocks into our conversation.