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At the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, we are the keepers not only of facts and objects, but also of stories – and it’s part of our mission to share those stories with you. The purpose of this blog is to share the stories of our history, artifacts, volunteers, staff and more. Be sure to check this space for updates, and follow us on social media to learn even more about who we are and what we do across the state of Indiana.

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Teaching Tuesdays: Fossil Sketches

The Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites may be currently closed due to COVID-19 – but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring some of the museum to you!

On Tuesdays, we’re bringing families tons of educational content that’s easy for parents and their kids to do at home with materials you likely have on hand.

This week, we’re learning how to create fossil sketches!

Fossils are the remains or traces of organisms that died more than 10,000 years ago. It could be a bone, a footprint, a mold or cast of their body – even poop or vomit! Becoming a fossil is very difficult and takes a long time. Conditions have to be just right. Scientists believe that an organism has to be buried quickly and deeply, protecting it from the weather or scavengers.

The fossil in the picture below is of a trilobite, a type of arthropod. Arthropods are animals that include insects, spiders, horseshoe crabs, centipedes, millipedes, pill bugs, lobsters and crayfish. Trilobites had segmented bodies and a hard-jointed shell like a beetle, which they shed several times during their lifetimes. They had compound eyes like a fly. It’s believed they survived by eating nutrients in mud, just like earthworms do today!

When trilobites felt threatened or scared, they curled up like a pill bug. Horseshoe crabs are the closest living relative of a trilobite. Trilobites ranged from an inch or two to nearly two feet long. They were very successful – existing for nearly 300 million years.

MATERIALS

  • Paper

  • Pencil, marker or crayon

 

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Take a look at the fossil below. What do you observe or notice about this fossil?

2. Sketch what you think the animal would have looked like when it was alive. Does the fossil show the entire animal or just a portion?

3. Consider the following questions, and write a story for this animal. Where did the animal live? Would it have been found on land, water or both? What did it eat? Did other animals eat it? What would you name it?

 

TIPS FOR PARENTS

During and after the activity, ask your child:

  • Do we have fossils of every organism that once lived?
  • Some species of this animal used to curl up in a ball when scared. What other living creatures do that?
  • How did this animal live? Where did it live?
  • Can we still find this animal alive in Indiana? If not, does it have any relatives alive today?
  • Have you seen fossils in person? Where? What did you think when you saw them?

 

 

READY TO CONTINUE EXPLORING?

Posted by Emily Winship at 9:00 AM