Be a time traveller!

June 17

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Scientists are always discovering new things about the history of our ancestors and our planet by studying fossils. Fossils are petrified remains of things that died a very long time ago (petrified means turned to stone, not frightened!). 

Most living things will never get to be a fossil, most dead plants and animals just rot away. However, if they happen to be in the right place at the right time their skeleton (or other hard parts) may become part of a sedimentary rock. There are several different ways that fossils can form, one way is the skeleton dissolving leaving a hole which is a mould of itself. This hole then fills up with other minerals until we have a piece of rock that is a perfect copy of the skeleton! Many fossils have been found but there are still many more to find. This summer why not try your hand as a palaeontologist and go fossil hunting? Visit www.ukfossils.co.uk to find good hunting spots around the country. 

If you are more interested in how fossils are formed, you could try to make some yourself. You will need: plaster of Paris, air drying clay and something to make a fossil of (a shell, tooth, small toy or a bone). First, knead the clay so that it is nice and soft. Then you can press your shell or other ‘creature’ into it, this is like the shell falling onto the sea bed and getting buried in the sediment at the bottom. You could wait for a few thousand years for the shell to disappear but it’s probably easier just to remove it! You should be left with a mould that can be filled with plaster of Paris. Once the clay and plaster have dried you can carefully excavate your fossil! You can use Plasticine instead of air drying clay but the excavating isn’t as much fun. 

As always, kids should be supervised and please check suitability of websites as content may have changed. 

Emma Ranade spends most of her time exploding things and experimenting at Fab Science birthday parties, holiday clubs and school workshops. www.fabscience.co.uk 07799 624777

 

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