Look what the class dragged in

5th October 2007 at 01:00
Digging for fossils, even if they are make-believe and in a classroom, is a valuable lesson for youngsters. Michelle Dexter tells you how to do it

What are they? Where do they come from? How are they made? All kinds of different questions that children want answers to when looking at fossils. So, instead of telling them, or watching a programme about them, how about some first-hand fun?

In my Year 2 class we decided to follow up the first term's look at Mary Anning, the fossil hunter, with a cross-curricular look at fossils. The children had been looking at the Rigby Star book called Fossils in Literacy and were interested in learning more.

In the literacy lessons they had completed flow charts and made their own factual leaflets. The focus would then move to history and how fossils were discovered, and by whom.

The children already knew about Mary Anning and so the topic of archaeologists was unveiled. Who are these people and how do they discover fossils?

To make this interesting, we decided to use a giant sand tray with buried objects.

The children had a grid each and had to record where they found each object. Once discovered, they had to dig it up and clean it carefully. These objects were broken parts of objects plastic for health and safety reasons and the children had to guess what they once were.

They then conducted an archaeological report about what they had discovered. They found this fascinating and enjoyed being in their exciting new roles.

Alongside this, we borrowed a loan box from the local museum to view broken historical remains.

The children enjoyed handling these and completed drawings to show what the objects could have been. To finish off the topic, we decided to let the children have a go at making their own fossil. This was an art-based project involving red clay and plaster of Paris.

The children used a range of interesting natural objects, such as shells and twigs, to impress into the clay "dish" mould. The plaster was then poured on top and left to set for a short time. After removing the clay mould, the children had their own fossil.

By the end of the mini project, the children had learned about the process, the discovery and the formation of fossils. A wonderful cross-curricular project with a strong link to histor *

Michelle Dexter is history co-ordinator at Manor Leas Infant School in Lincoln

Lesson objectives

* To be aware of the work of archaeologists who discover about the past by digging underground. * To realise we use what information we have to piece together what happened in the past and to experience the problems archaeologists may meet. * To discuss what an object is by using the clues given.

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