Fossils Lesson from a Christian Perspective
Are You A Fan of Finding Fossils?
Do you own fossils?
This is part 3 of a 6 part hands-on unit on Earth Science from a Christian perspective. The focus of this lesson is fossils! Create fossils casts, dig up and piece together dinosaur skeletons, excavate dinosaurs, eat edible ammonites, and more! My lessons are geared toward 2nd-3rd grade level children and their siblings. These are lessons I created to do with a weekly homeschool co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 14 children between the ages of 0-12. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, family, after school program, or co-op!
Noah's Flood: Waters from the Depth
1) Open with prayer.
2) Sing the 2 songs from the previous lessons to review.
YOU WILL NEED: songs from the previous 2 lessons
3) Read the flood account from the Bible (Genesis 7:10-8:5). Use pictures from The True Story of Noah's Ark by Tom Dooley. Have children do hand motions (patting thighs whenever we say "rain" and wiggle finger upwards whenever we say "flood") as we read. Reinforce that the flood is responsible for how our earth looks today. Many scientists try to say otherwise. Fossils remind us of the seriousness of sin, but people try to suppress that truth with lies. (Romans 1)
YOU WILL NEED: The True Story of Noah's Ark by Tom Dooley or other book on the Flood
We really enjoyed this longer picture book about Noah. It corrects many of the false stereotypes that many well-meaning children's books tend to ingrain in our children. Usually there are at least a few gasps from a few families when we show that dinosaurs would have been on the ark.
Waters from the Depth Demo
4) (Do this outside) Demonstrate how the waters came up from the depths.
- As the children watch, fill warm water to the very top of a round casserole dish. Tell them that the water under the earth is VERY hot.
- Top the water off with at least 3 layers of plastic wrap. Secure with 3 rubber bands.
- Sprinkle with the plastic wrap with soil (which represents the lithosphere or earth’s crust) until it covers all of the plastic wrap (at least 1/4 inch thick).
- Tell the children that when the flood during the time of Noah occurred, not only did rain come down from the sky, but water burst out from the depths of the earth. Puncture the plastic wrap with a sharp knife and watch as the water bursts out from beneath and the soil and caves in the middle to form oceans and the outsides are elevated as mountains. Point this out to the children. The flood burst apart the land into seven continents. Notice how eventually the soil starts to float together. Our continents are actually slowly moving toward each other and some of our mountains are slightly going down in elevation.
YOU WILL NEED: large, round casserole dish (not a cake pan – it needs to have high sides), pitcher of warm/hot water, plastic wrap, 3 rubber bands that can fit around the casserole dish, sharp knife (it must have a sharp tip), and dirt (enough to cover the top of the casserole dish to at least 1/4 inch high)
5) Go back inside. Show a picture of a geyser (like Old Faithful) and a picture of an ocean floor hot water vent. (I used a picture from The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor.) There is still some of this very hot water under our lithosphere/earth’s crust.
YOU WILL NEED: a picture of an ocean floor hot water vent. (You could use an online picture. I used a picture from The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor since it has a great illustration of the hot water vent and the living creatures that surround it.)
Water Bursting = Earth Shrinking Demo
6) Give each child a piece of Play-doh. Have them form it into a ball with a hollow center. We'll pretend that this is the earth before the flood. When the water burst out from the depths, our spherical earth shrunk a bit, causing the oceans to deepen and the mountains to rise. Have them squish the Play-doh ball in their hands and then observe how it now has various elevations.
YOU WILL NEED: play-doh (brought by families)
7) Read at least the first chapter from Dry Bones and Other Fossils by Gary E. Parker. (If you are teaching preschoolers, instead read My Creation Bible by Ken Ham.)
YOU WILL NEED: Either Dry Bones and Other Fossils by Gary E. Parker or My Creation Bible by Ken Ham (for preschoolers)
We read the first chapter of this book to the children. This is a wonderful Christian picture book on fossils. It follows a family as they discover fossils. The book is written in the format of the children asking questions and their scientist parents answering them.
If you have very young children (preschoolers or kindergarten), this might be a better option. It is a longer board book that goes through creation, fall, and redemption in simple terms. It includes illustrations of dinosaurs during creation. It has illustrations and rhyming text that appeal to younger children. We really enjoy this book!
Flood Waters Produce Layers
8) Review where fossils are found (sedimentary rocks), how they were formed (the rapid build-up of sand and silt during the flood), and what they should remind us of (the seriousness of sin).
- Select 3 children who aren’t shy to be volunteers, either all boys or all girls.
- Child #1 represents the animals that are/were deep on the ocean floor (ammonites, cephalopods, trilobites, etc.). Hand that child a picture of those.
- Child #2 represents the animals that are on the upper part of the ocean (fish, sharks, etc). Hand that child a book with pictures of those.
- Child #3 represents the flood waters. Hand that child a book with a picture of that.
- Explain that most of the fossils we find are from the animals that lived deep in the sea, because that’s where the most pressure was during the flood.
- Have Child #1 lay on the ground. Have Child #2 lay on top of child #1. Have Child # 3 sits on top of child #2. Child #3 represents the flood waters. Where is the most pressure? Yes, Child #1 is getting the most pressure. That's why almost all of the fossils we find are from deep sea animals.
YOU WILL NEED: a printed off picture of an ammonite, cephalopod, & trilobite (such as this picture of a cephalopod that looks like an octopus coming out of a cone) & pictures of fish & the flood (from books or online)
Edible Cephalopods and Ammonites
- PREP: While children are listening to the story (activity 7), lay out a small square (about 8”x8”) of parchment paper (preferred) or aluminum foil. Use a sharpie marker to write their names on the parchment sheets. Also lay out the knives, Little Smokey, and breadstick piece on each sheet. Preheat both ovens in the other building to 375.
- Explain: (*Ignore the explanations on the website link.*) These are two fossils from ocean floor animals. There are lots of them on the bottom layers of fossil records because they were animals that lived at the bottom of the ocean. They were like child #1. If you have these fossils or pictures of these fossils, show them along with a picture of a nautilus (modern day ammonites) and a squid (modern day cephalopods).
- Ammonites: Give each child a Little Smoky appetizer dog, a piece of breadstick dough, and a plastic knife. Have them cut 4 slits halfway up the Little Smokey to make tentacles. Show them how to coil the breadstick around in a snail-type fashion and stick the appetizer dog at the end with the tentacles coming out. Tell them this is supposed to be an animal, an ammonite, and have them repeat the word “ammonite.”
- Cephalopod: Now pass out another Little Smoky's and a crescent roll dough piece. Have them cut 4 slits halfway up the Little Smokey to make tentacles. Show them how to shape the crescent dough into a cone shape and then put the appetizer dog at the larger end with the tentacles coming out.
- Place the parchment sheets on baking sheets and bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
YOU WILL NEED: (per group of up to 16 children): 2 packages of Little Smoky's appetizer dogs, 2 packages of crescent roll dough (like Pillsbury crescent dough rolls), 2 packages of breadstick dough (like Pillsbury breadsticks), 4 baking sheets, 16 plastic kitchen knives, parchment paper (preferred) or aluminum foil, a sharpie marker, a picture of a nautilus and/or an actual nautilus shell, & a picture of squid
Fossils & Fossil Casts
10) Make fossil casts.
- PREP: While children are listening to the story (activity 7), in one of the side rooms lay out a plate for each child. Write their names on the plates. On each plate place a small walnut-sized ball of modeling clay, a shell, and a small spoonful of petroleum jelly.
- Explain the differences between a fossil and an imprint or cast. Remind the children that fossils were formed quickly during the flood. Show them examples of each. You can read the below information for yourself and then summarize it for the children:
- What are fossils? Fossils are the remains of plants and animals, most of which were covered by sand, mud, and water during the flood during Noah’s life. What type of rock sometimes has fossils? (Sedimentary) Trace fossils are the most common fossils found. They are impressions left in the sediment from animals and plants that died during Noah's flood. Common trace fossils are footprints, nests, worm borrows, teeth marks, and resting spots of animals. Trace fossils are not the original parts of an animal or plant. They are kind of like when you step in mud and your shoe print stays there. There are two main kinds of trace fossils, molds and casts. A mold forms when something is pressed into soft mud and and then the body or plant decomposes, leaving an impression of the object. A cast is a 3-D example of an object of the past created when a mold fills up with sediment such as volcanic ash, mud, or even sand.
- Have each child use a finger to grease the shell on their plate with a small amount of petroleum jelly. They should press the shell into the modeling clay and then gently remove it. Now you have an imprint. Have them say, “imprint.”
- Give them each a spoonful of prepared plaster to fill into the imprint and smooth it out. Tell them this is the beginning of the cast, but it is easier to see when the plaster has dried. Tell them that their cast will be the exact same shape as the original shell “fossil.” Once the plaster is hard, we’ll remove it from the modeling clay mold. If you wanted to, you could paint your plaster cast to match it up with the original shell as closely as possible.
- At the end of the process, what we have is something that is the exact same shape and color as the original. But why might we want to do this? Sometimes paleontologists will make casts of bones they find, such as dinosaur bones because the dinosaur bone might fall apart if you took it to the museum. They want to show it off in museums, so they make a cast of the dinosaur bones just like we made casts of these shells. They frequently want to show off the dinosaur bones in lots of museums, so they make lots of casts so they can send them out to be displayed at many museums. They also make casts because most of the time they only find part of the skeleton. They use casts so that you can see what paleontologists think a complete animal looked like.
- Allow it to dry at least 15 minutes before removing the modeling clay.
YOU WILL NEED: (for a group of 16 children) a box of modeling clay, petroleum jelly (like Vaseline), a marker, Plaster of Paris, a disposable bowl and spoon to use to make the Plaster of Paris; 16 small paper plates, 16 small seashells, & 16 plastic spoons, a box of modeling clay, petroleum jelly (like Vaseline), & Plaster of Paris; per child: 1 small paper plate, 1 small seashell, 1 small paper cup (like the Dixie bathroom cups), 1 plastic spoons
11) Allow children to show off fossils they have brought.
YOU WILL NEED: fossils brought by families
Paleontologists & Archeologists
12) Discuss what paleontologists do by making guesses about an object that has been destroyed. The discussion below is from the above link.
- Tell the children that you have a mystery item and you want them to figure out what it was from. Tell them it is a small piece from a bigger object. Show them the piece and let them quickly pass it around.
- Ask them:
- What did this look like before it was destroyed? It was a piece from something. What do you think it was from?
- How old was this? What year was it made?
- Where did this come from originally? Where was it made? Was it made in China? In Thailand? At my house?
- How was the object used? Was it a rope I used to tie up bales of hay? Was it a cup that I used to plant plants in?
- What color was the original object?
- How was the object destroyed?
- Now reveal to them the true answers to all these questions.
- Explain: Scientists often try to determine the answers to questions about the past using just a tiny piece of evidence from the present. For example, they may take a tooth and some bones and come up with their idea of how an animal or person looked and what it was like. But they cannot know for sure what the creature or person looked like, how it behaved, or how or where it lived. The bones could have been transported by a flood from their original location to the location where they were found, for example. They cannot determine skin color, or even how old the bones are without making lots of assumptions. They also cannot determine exactly how the creature died. Perhaps it was already dead before it was buried. Perhaps it died in a flood. Perhaps another animal killed it. The worldview a scientist has chosen will influence his/her interpretation of the evidence. We can only know the truth if there was an eyewitness. The Bible records an eyewitness account of what happened in the beginning. God created all things and tells us about it in His Word!
YOU WILL NEED: 1 piece of a multi-colored mystery item that has been seriously destroyed: Find an object you don't mind destroying (a cassette tape; a cup; a piece of hardware; etc. The more obscure or unusual the object, the better). Break (or tear) the object into pieces in a creative way (cut it with a saw; crush it with pliers; drop it out a window; drive the car over it). Choose a piece of the broken object to show to the children. Be certain there is no way the children could know what the original object looked like.
13) (Do this outside.) Dinosaur Bones Dig Sites
- PREP: On the walkway outside the building lay down the 4 baking sheets in 4 separate areas. Scatter the wooden dinosaur bones on the baking sheet and then cover them completely with the sand.
- (If you are doing this activity with upper elementary or older aged children, remove some of the pieces of the skeleton bones because very rarely is a complete skeleton ever found.)
- Divide the children into 4 groups & send them outside.
- Tell them they will first be archaeologists looking for dinosaur bones. Have them "excavate" their sand pits and find all the dinosaur skeleton pieces by brushing away the sand with their paintbrushes.
- Then tell them they will now become paleontologists and try to put the dinosaur skeleton pieces together. Tell them to see how much of the dinosaur they can put together in 3 minutes. This will probably be difficult and frustrating for them. Tell them, "This is what paleontologists do when they find dinosaur bones. Frequently they don't have a complete set and they have to guess what the animal looked like."
YOU WILL NEED: 4 large baking sheets, 1/2 lb. of playground sand, 4 wooden dinosaur skeleton set (sold for $1 each at Michael's) – with the pieces punched out ahead of time and each placed in a separate ziplock bag, & paintbrushes (brought by families)
Excavating Fossils, Snack, & Review
14) Explain how most of the time dinosaur bones are found in loose sand. They are found in sedimentary rock. Archaeologists have to be very careful when excavating/removing dinosaur "fossils" out of rock because they could easily shatter the bone or bones. Excavate "fossils" out of plaster of Paris "limestone" block. To make "limestone" blocks, purchase 1 lb. of Plaster of Paris (from a hardware or craft store) per child. Mix up the plaster with water and pour it into disposable bowls. Push 4 plastic dinosaur toys into the plaster. Remove bowl after 30 minutes and let the plaster block dry at least a day before allowing the kids to smash it open with a hammer.
YOU WILL NEED: (per child) 1 plaster block (1 lb. of Plaster of Paris, 4 dinosaur toys, & 1 disposable bowl) & 1 ziplock bag (also a large, disposable pan and a paint stirring stick for mixing up the Plaster of Paris) or if you can find dinosaur eggs in the toy department of your Dollar Tree, get those instead (They are an Easter Egg size plaster egg filled with tiny plastic dinosaur skeleton pieces.) & items brought by families: hammers & paintbrushes
15) (If time allows) Allow children to remove their fossil casts.
16) Ahead of time dab a small amount of ketchup and then an even tinier amount of mustard on top of the Little Smokies to make it look like an eye. *Have the children wash their hands.* Let children eat cephalopods and ammonites and drink water.
YOU WILL NEED: mustard and ketchup & 16 cups for water
17) 5 Minute Review of what we learned: What worldwide event is responsible for the way the earth looks today and for most of the fossils? (the flood during the time of Noah) What should fossils remind us of? (sin – God’s judgment) Did the water just come down from the sky? (No, it also came up from the ground) What happened to the land when the water gushed out from below? (It was split apart into continents) Are most ocean fossils we find from animals that lived at the bottom of the ocean or the top of the ocean? (the bottom) Name 1 type of ocean bottom dwelling animal we find many fossils of today. (ammonites, cephalopods, trilobites) What type of rock sometimes has fossils? (Sedimentary) Give an example of a trace fossil. (footprints, nests, worm borrows, teeth marks, and resting spots). When we pressed the shell into the clay, did we make a mold or a cast? (mold) After we poured the plaster into the mold, what did we make (cast) What is one thing paleontologists have to guess about when they find a fossil (how old it is, where it came from, what it originally looked like, etc.) What type of scientist looks for old things like dinosaur bones? (archaeologists) What was your favorite activity from today?
Joke: What do you call a paleontologist who never gets any work done?
Material List for the Lesson
*Everyone needs to bring per child:
- a fossil that your child would like to show the group (optional)
- a hammer
- a paintbrush (preferably one larger than the watercolor size one but any type will work)
- modeling clay or play-dough
- nautilus shell (optional – if you have one)
*Items to be assigned to individuals to bring for the group:
- books: “The True Story of Noah's Ark” by Tom Dooley & "Dry Bones and Other Fossils" by Gary E. Parker
- songs from the previous 2 lessons
- large, round casserole dish (not a cake pan – it needs to have high sides), pitcher of warm/hot water, plastic wrap, 3 rubber bands that can fit around the casserole dish, sharp knife (it must have a sharp tip), and dirt (enough to cover the top of the casserole dish to at least 1/4 inch high)
- pictures of a geyser (like Old Faithful) and a picture of an ocean floor hot water vent
- a printed off picture of an ammonite, cephalopod, & trilobite, & pictures of fish & the flood
- 1 package of Little Smoky's appetizer dogs, 2 packages of crescent roll dough (like Pillsbury crescent dough rolls), 2 baking sheets, 16 plastic kitchen knives, & a picture of squid (for up to 16 children)
- 1 package of Little Smoky's appetizer dogs, 2 packages of bread-stick dough (like Pillsbury bread-sticks), 2 baking sheets, parchment paper (preferred) or aluminum foil, a sharpie marker, & a picture of a nautilus (for up to 16 children)
- a box of modeling clay, petroleum jelly (like Vaseline), a marker, Plaster of Paris, a disposable bowl and spoon to use to make the Plaster of Paris; 1 small paper plate per child, 1 small seashell per child, & 1 plastic spoon per child
- 1 piece of a multi-colored mystery item that has been seriously destroyed
- 4 large baking sheets, 1/2 lb. of playground sand, 4 wooden dinosaur skeleton set (sold for $1 each at Michael's) – with the pieces punched out ahead of time and each placed in a separate ziplock bag
- 1 plaster dinosaur "eggs" per child & 1 baggie per child
- mustard and ketchup & 1 cup for water per child
Our Favorite Christian Books on Fossils & Dinosaurs
What 3 year old doesn't love dinosaurs? When my oldest son was 3, he insisted that dinosaurs could not have been on the earth the same time as people because they were never together in any of his picture books. It was then that I realized I needed to find some Christian picture books on dinosaurs! It took us a while to find ones that actually appealed to my children. Here are our favorites (beyond the ones we used in this lesson):
- D Is for Dinosaur by Ken Ham, Mally Ham
- What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs? (DJ and Tracker John) by John D. Morris, Ken Ham
- When Dragons' Hearts Were Good by Buddy Davis
- Noah's Ark Noah's Flood (DJ and Tracker John) by John Morris
- Noah's Ark and the Ararat Adventure by John D. Morris
- Dinosaurs for Kids by Ken Ham
- Dinosaurs of Eden: A Biblical Journey Through Time by Ken Ham
- Dinosaurs by Design by Duane T. Gish, Gloria Clanin
- In the Days of Noah by Gloria Clanin
My Family's Favorite Christian Resource on Fossils (and Science)
My entire family loves this series and we have learned so much about science (including fossils) from a Christian perspective. If you're not familiar with this delightful radio drama, you must listen to it! This is exciting and educational, providing a Christian foundation for creation...all conveyed through the extremely well-done adventure series about the family of a Christian paleontologist. There are 10 volumes with the original cast. We own them all and have given them as gifts to lots of people. Most recent ones are being created by a new company and are unfortunately not as good. We LOVE the original series, though!
Great Background Reading for High Schoolers and/or Adults
I didn't make the connection between the Flood and fossils until I was an adult. The book In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown helped me to clearly work out the logistics of what that implies. If you'd like to preview it first, you can even read the entire book for free on-line here.
Best Bible Curriculum for This Unit
These are the books we used for our Bible curriculum during our Earth Science Unit. They go perfectly with this unit! Also look for "Digging Up the Past: Genesis, Chapters 3-11" (Discover 4 Yourself Inductive Bible Studies for Kids) by Kay Arthur.
Great Christian Video Clip Explaining The Fossil Record
Ready for the next lesson?
Make an edible model of the earth as you study the Earth's layers, bake cookies that demonstrate how sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks form, create fossil casts, build marshmallow structures that can withstand a jell-o earthquake, carve gullies and valleys in sand using wind, water, and ice, make presentations on various aspects of the Earth, and more during this 6 lesson hands-on unit study of Earth Science!
- Earth's Layers and Soil Composition Lesson
This is part 1 of a 6 part hands-on unit on Earth Science from a Christian perspective. Make an edible model of the earth, act out each of the Earth's layers, do core testing on a cupcake, make oobleck, and more!
- Rock Classification Lesson
This is part 2 of a 6 part hands-on unit on Earth Science from a Christian perspective. Make and eat "Sedimentary" Seven Layer Bars, create "Metamorphic" Snickers bars, do some rock mining, and more!
- Fossils Lesson
This is part 3 of a 6 part hands-on unit on Earth Science from a Christian perspective. The focus of this lesson is fossils! Create fossils casts, dig up and piece together dinosaur skeletons, excavate dinosaurs, eat edible ammonites, and more!
- Plate Tectonics and Volcanoes Lesson
This is part 4 of a 6 part hands-on unit study on Earth Science. Make edible volcanoes, build an erupting ring of fire, demonstrate plate tectonics using graham crackers, form each type of volcano using play-doh, and more!
- Earthquakes Lesson
This is part 5 of a 6 part hands-on unit study on Earth Science. Create a tsunami, build marshmallow structures that can withstand an earthquake, act out seismic waves, build and use a seismograph, and more!
- Erosion Lesson
This is part 6 of a 6 part hands-on unit study on Earth Science. Demonstrate various types of erosion as children carve gullies and valleys in sand using air, water, and ice. Re-create the Grand Canyon. Compare how soil resists erosion.
- Earth Science Presentation and Field Trip Ideas
This is the culminating project we did after a 6 part hands-on unit on Earth Science. We made edible volcanoes, performed earth science demonstrations, displayed paintings of the earth's layers and volcanoes, sang songs about the earth science, and more!
Looking for all of my unit studies and lessons?
Fun, FREE Hands-on Unit Studies - Over the years I have posted over 40 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 170 lessons. The unit studies include the Human Body, Simple Machines, Earth Science, Medieval Period, American Revolution, Pioneer Life, Countries of the World, and many more! For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources.
Need More Activity Ideas on Fossils from a Christian Perspective?
- Noah & Dinosaur Lapbook and Activities
Noah and dinosaur links includes lapbook print outs & activities
- Hands-on Fossils Unit
Fossil unit with hands-on activities, links, & videos. Includes both evolutionary and Christian creationist views
- Geology and Fossil Activities and Books
List of activities & what they read
- Links to Christian lessons
Links to Christian lessons - Some are free & some cost money
- Worksheets and videos related to creation
Worksheets and videos related to creation
Would you like to teach this way every day?
I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful curriculum and was created by moms with active boys!
If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' HomeSchoolMentor.com program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!