Finding Fossils

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This activity (located on page 4 of the PDF under GPS: Baby Dinosaurs Activity) is a full inquiry investigation to determine the age of fossils based on where they are discovered. Groups of learners will dig for fossils embedded in a cake of multiple layers, carefully excavating each stratum and eventually preparing a chart from their notes for discussion with the group. The two main lessons from this exercise are that fossils from different layers come from different eras and that multiple interpretations of incomplete fossil evidence are possible. Relates to linked video, DragonflyTV GPS: Baby Dinosaurs.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
4 to 24 hours

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

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

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • a stratigraphy model (constructed out of layers of sheet cake, or from layers of craft Styrofoam)
  • objects to "bury" in the model (coins, rocks, other small artifacts)
  • plastic "tools" (knife, fork, tweezers)
  • trays
  • small tubs for collection dishes
  • poster board
  • markers
  • tape


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Rocks and Minerals
    • Earth's History
      • Archeology
      • Geologic Time
      • Fossils
      • Dinosaurs
  • Life Sciences
    • Evolution
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

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


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • DragonflyTV


  • All rights reserved, Twin Cities Public Television, Inc., 2007

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 610429