Activity 1: Do at School!

Make a fossil sandwich

Making a fossil is a bit like making a sandwich. In this activity you will have the opportunity to make a fossil sandwich using a couple slices of soft white bread and some objects like paper clips, leaves, and twigs. Imagine that the bread is sediment (soft sand or mud) at the bottom of a pond or lake, and that your objects are different kinds of living things.


[Diagram for the fossil sandwich]

  1. Place a piece of bread on the desk - this is the mud at the bottom of the pond.
  2. Allow some of your creatures (for example, paper clips and leaves) to settle to the bottom of the pond, onto the mud (bread).
  3. A storm occurs and more sediment is swept into the pond, where it then settles over the creatures.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 two more times.
  5. SQUISH the sandwich with your hand. This is similar to sediment getting squished (compacted) by heavy sediment above it.
  6. Now pull apart the layers and look at how things are preserved.
Were some things fossilized in greater detail than others? Why?

Discuss: In what ways is this fossil sandwich not realistic?

Main Message: This exercise shows how fossil organisms and their impressions are formed within layers of sediment. It also shows that some objects are better preserved than others.

Connections: Activity 4, Gorge Dessert, provides a tasty example of rock layering, while activity 7, Ice Age Mud from an Ancient Pond, will help reveal what really happens.


The Paleontological Research Institution
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Ithaca, NY 14850 phone: 607-273-6623 fax: 607-273-6620
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