Pollen Tracks

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In this activity (on pages 30-36), learners simulate a dig for ancient pollen, to experience how paleobotanists study fossilized pollen in rocks to learn about early geological and climatological events on earth. Learners search in a "dig site" to find rocks, then carefully extract "seeds" from the imitation rocks (which must be made ahead of time). They record their data to understand the process scientists use in understanding the ancient earth.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
2 to 4 hours

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Model, Simulation

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • 4 dissecting needles
  • 4 plastic pipets or droppers
  • 4 plastic spoons
  • masking tape
  • paper towels
  • 2 pieces of string, each 35 cm
  • 1/4 cup vinegar in a small plastic cup
  • aluminum cake pan 8 x 8 inch filled 3/4 full with dry sand and 4 imitation rocks made from:
  • About 1/2 oz Indian seed beads (2 packets) in the following colors: yellow, white, oragne, red, green, blue, and black
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 4 tsp. Alum
  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup sand with small gravel
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 4-5 drops red, blue and yellow food coloring
  • mixing bowl
  • cookie sheet
  • oven


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Rocks and Minerals
    • Earth's History
      • Archeology
      • Fossils
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
    • Science as a Career

Informal Categories

  • Outdoor Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

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

Designed specifically for

  • Rural dweller

Culture, ethnicity, and gender

  • Girls

    • Explicity developed for this group


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide


  • All rights reserved, University of Nebraska State Museum, 2001

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation Informal Science Education Program, 9909496
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute