Fun with Fossils

24 September 2013

Luna has recently become fascinated with fossils, mostly dinosaurs – and it has evolved into a full-blown learning adventure!  It illustrates perfectly to me how natural learning works, and what home education looks like for us at this point in time…

These are some photos of our homemade fossils, above is Luna’s ‘Tranyosaur’ (Tran – ee – oh – saw) skull fossil.

We had a beach day a while back where I decided it would be worthwhile collecting a load of pebbles and stones, I was thinking about how texturally they felt good, the variation in colours, and sizes, and the thought that we could paint them into pet rocks, or some such activity.  Luna and Blake loved collecting the rocks too…

Little did I know that they would become fossils and were just what we needed while we were learning about fossils, ‘magic in the rocks’.

This took up the better part of an afternoon, basically until we ran out of paint and day light, then carried on the next day.  Below are two fossil footprints, from dinosaurs, Luna told me.

We love a good David (R)Attenborough (as Blake calls him) doco, so Lost Worlds Vanished Lives arriving in the post was very exciting.  It’s the first time we’ve looked in-depth at fossils.  So on one of those days when we needed a bit of down time, we pulled this out.

This is an old documentary, from 1989, but it’s cool.  I love the way he explores the origins of our understanding of paleontology, and as Attenborough notes, it’s not how they died that is so fascinating, but how they lived.  It really captures the imagination.

I have a couple of cool fossil books, this one has really unusual animals, fish, jelly fish, shells and urchins, and has lush illustrations.  So these are out in the lounge at the moment.  I did a bit of research online, GNS  Science is a good place to start, with books, maps and info about where to find fossils as well as activities, lesson plans and other resources (bookmarked for future reference!) We also checked out a number of books on fossils and geography from our local library, with a focus on local fossils.

Another highlight was this ‘excavate your own dino’ type kit I picked up at an op shop ages ago (how’s that for forward planning!?) It is something I would not have bought, or sought out, but it was a huge hit with Luna.  So a lucky find.

I thought it might be a bit too contrived, but Luna loved it, leading the expedition, Blake was her right hand, dusting away chips as they went flying, quickly she masted the most efficient method of removing the plaster (the kit came with ‘tools’).

There are a few do-it-yourself ideas to make this sort of thing online, so we’ll see how we go, we might give it a try.  Longer term and as a bit of an adventure, we plan on visiting a few not-too-far away fossil hunting sites, which will be awesome, Luna is taking care of her fossil hunting tools in anticipation.

So, our resources and the ‘lesson plan’ included:

Lost Worlds dvd

Online; GNS Science

Books from home and the library, many good suggestions from GNS Science website.

Hands on, art; excavating dino kit, painting fossil rocks, this was a great story telling activity as Luna had a story with many of her fossils.

Beach combing, walking mountains, this brought in some geography, history of Auckland, and where we might find some fossils.

Taking it to the next level, we’ll head out to see if we can find some of our own fossils, which I’m really excited about !

It was interesting how this took in elements of history, what people thought they were finding, and how this science has developed.  This has also opened up interest in the fossils and natural history section of the museum, which the kids were only remotely interested in.

Almost all of this was free or low cost, the only thing I paid for was the dvd and the fossil kit, the paints were from our art stash, library is free to use as is the museum.  Other than travel, it was easy to do this on a small budget.  I’m looking forward to how this evolves in the future.

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