Fossils unit study

Yesterday I posted my list of resources and activities for a unit on the geologic time scale.  Today I am posting my list of ideas for studying fossils with my fourth grader.  

Here is the link to the guide as it appears in my Google Docs:

Or, you can read on below:



1) Watch the Fossils video on BrainPop.  (approximately 3.5 minutes)  

(We pay $6.99/month to use BrainPop videos on our iPad.  You can also subscribe to the web version.) 


2) Read pages 14-17 of The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History.


3) Watch the Bill Nye video on fossils:


4) Read the book Under Ohio: The Story of Ohio’s Rocks and Fossils.  Pick one of the fossils listed in the book and research it.  Write a paragraph about your chosen fossil and draw a picture of it.  (The DK Eyewitness Fossil book might be a good place to start.)


5) Read pages 114-123 of Basher’s Rocks and MInerals: A Gem of a Book.  Fold a sheet of paper into four squares.  In each square draw a picture or write a description of each of the four types of fossils.


6) Make your own fossil. (Supplies: a sponge, water, magnesium sulfate, and sand plus a container)


7) Follow the link to play a create-a-fossil game:


8) Watch this video on petrified wood and petrified forests:  (Approximately 3.5 minutes)


9) Read the following blog entry about petrified wood and mineral colors:  Using the information on the blog, draw a colorful picture of some petrified wood and label the bands with what minerals might have been present in the environment around the tree as it permineralized.  


10) Here is a video about the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona:  (Approximately 5 minutes long)


11) Read about coprolite:


12) Read the book Jurassic Poop by Jacob Berkowitz.


13) Complete the Who Dung It? activity that you can find described in this PDF:


14) Watch this How It’s Made video on how replica fossils are made:  

The video you are looking for is from season 4, episode 3. (Currently free streaming with Amazon Prime)


15) Read pages 62-63 of the DK Eyewitness Fossil book.  Using things you can find around the house, start putting together your own fossil hunting kit.


16) Read pages 16-17 of the DK Eyewitness Fossil book.   These pages talk specifically about fossil folklore.  If you are feeling particularly creative, you can write a little story about someone who finds a fossil that they believe is “good” or “bad” luck.


17) This link leads to tons more information on fossil folklore, how fossils have been  used in medicine and as decoration:


18) Add at least 5 more quiz cards to your trivia game filebox.  Use the DK Eyewitness Fossil book, the Usborne Spotter’s Guide: Rocks and Minerals, or some other fossil book if you need help finding more facts or want to delve deeper.


Unit studies

This summer I have been trying to put together some social studies and science mini-units for the fall that I hope my fourth grader will enjoy.  Last school year we did a huge unit study on rocks and minerals that morphed into a big 4-H project that we completed last month.  Towards the end of the rocks and minerals study, we touched briefly on fossils, so I want to try to continue in that area of science for a while longer and see where it leads us.  

It has been going more slowly than I had hoped, but I have three science topic guides just about finished.  I will try to share them as I finish in case anyone else wants to use them.  The first one is on the geologic time scale.  For each of these I have quite a list of possible books, videos, activities, assignments, etc.  I doubt we will actually do every little thing on my list, but I tend to prefer to be over-prepared in case the topic really piques his interest.  

You can view as a file on Google Docs here:

Or you can read on below:

Topic 1 – Geologic Time Scale


1) Watch the Geologic Time Scale video on BrainPop.  (approximately 3 minutes)

BrainPop is a subscription resource.  We use it on the iPad for $6.99/month.


2) Read pages 12-13 of The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History.  


3) Read pages 186-187 of The Usborne Encyclopedia of Science.


4) Watch this video on the Geologic Time Scale: (approximately 3 minutes)


5) Explore this interactive on the Geologic Time Scale: (15+ minutes)


6) Explore the Geotimescale enhanced app on the Kindle Fire.  (15+ minutes)


7) Play “What Came First?”  Directions for the activity can be found midway through the following page:  (Supplies: Index cards, marker)


8) Follow this link to see Geologic Time represented as a clock:


9) Make a toilet paper roll Geologic Time Scale.  Look at the following links for help:  or

Or use long lengths of colored ribbon:

(Supplies needed: spools of different colored ribbon or toilet paper, marker or pen. A roll of adding machine tape would work as well instead if you can find some at an office supply store.)


10) Make at least 5 quiz cards.  Quiz cards will be used for an end-of-the-year trivia game.  Here are some examples of what you might want to write cards about:


which periods trilobites, dinosaurs, forests, and humans first appeared

which period saw the extinction of the dinosaurs

the name of the current epoch

approximately how old the earth is


(Supplies needed: Index cards, pen, box for storing your finished cards)

You could make the cards on the computer instead and print them out onto cardstock.  


11) Pick one period of geologic time to research. Write a paragraph of at least 5 sentences about it.  Pages 24-101 of The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History should be helpful.  The interactive at the following link could be helpful as well for information:  Include a picture or two as well with your report.