Buried Bones

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In this activity, pairs of learners will create two make-believe dig sites by burying chicken bones in plaster of Paris--a powder that hardens when wet. Then, learners try to excavate (dig out) their partner's "fossils." Learners will discover that excavating fossils requires skill, patience, and the right tools. Note: this activity requires adult supervision as working with plaster of Paris can be dangerous if not done properly.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
2 to 4 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 2 empty containers that can be thrown away after you are done
  • 1 small box of plaster of Paris
  • about 4-6 chicken bones, all meat removed
  • measuring cup (1 cup)
  • 2 disposable plastic spoons
  • 2 disposable bowls for mixing (made of thick paper or plastic)
  • old newspaper (to protect the surface you'll be working on)
  • 2 metal spoons
  • lotion or petroleum jelly


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth's History
      • Archeology
      • Fossils
  • Life Sciences
    • Evolution
      • History of Life
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Ology


  • All rights reserved, American Museum of Natural History,