How to make dinosaur fossils and imprint footprints

Written by amanda stovall
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How to make dinosaur fossils and imprint footprints
Making mock dinosaur fossils is a fun and educational activity for children and adults. (dinosaur image by Natalia Pavlova from Fotolia.com)

Dinosaur fossils and footprints have fascinated adults and kids for as long as paleontologists and other scientists have been finding them. While most fossils and footprint casts can be seen only in museums behind glass, it is easy to mould and cast mock fossils or footprints at home. This activity, suggested by reachoutmichigan.org, is best suited for younger children, but older children and adults can also appreciate the hands-on learning that takes place.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Cardboard
  • Stick or knife
  • Scissors
  • Modelling clay
  • Chicken bones
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cold brewed coffee
  • 1 cup used coffee grounds
  • Measuring cups
  • Large spoon
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Wax paper
  • Oil or cooking spray
  • Plastic container
  • Plastic cling wrap

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Instructions

    Make a Mold

  1. 1

    Make a mould for the modelling mix to be cast around. Do this with modelling clay, cardboard and scissors or real animal bones.

  2. 2

    For modelling clay, shape a large piece of clay into the form of an animal bone or a large footprint. Most dinosaur footprints have three toes that resemble a bird's foot, but a quick internet search can yield accurate images of dinosaur foot prints to use as inspiration for modelling. Two good sites for looking at examples of dinosaur footprints are Enchanted Learning and Mid-America Paleontology Society.

  3. 3

    For cardboard, use the scissors to cut the cardboard into the shape of a dinosaur footprint or bone. Larger cutouts are easier to cast in the modelling mix.

  4. 4

    For an animal bone, use the desired piece for casting once the modelling mix is made.

    Make the Modeling Mix

  1. 1

    In a large bowl, measure out the salt, flour, brewed coffee and coffee grounds using the measuring spoons.

  2. 2

    Use the large spoon to mix all ingredients in the bowl; stir until they blend together.

  3. 3

    Once the dough is solid, put it on a large sheet of wax paper. Knead the dough until it is smooth and the lumps are pressed out.

  4. 4

    Tear off a piece of the dough big enough for making the first fossil. Press the piece flat with your hands, leaving it at least an inch thick.

  5. 5

    Select the object you would like to imprint and press it into the dough at least halfway down. Then carefully remove the object.

    Using the Cast

  1. 1

    Let the imprinted mock fossil harden in a dry, warm place overnight.

  2. 2

    To use the cast to make a stand-alone fossil, remove another piece of dough that has not been allowed to harden. Dough can be preserved overnight by wrapping it in plastic wrap and sealing it inside a plastic container. Store in the refrigerator to maintain pliability.

  3. 3

    Put a thin layer of oil or cooking spray on the imprinted cast.

  4. 4

    Press the fresh dough into the cast, being sure to fill all the empty space.

  5. 5

    Allow to dry overnight, and then pop out once hardened.

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