On Thursday afternoons at the Decorative Fine Arts camp, we gather rocks and leaves and bits of plants to bring back into the classroom. Then, with all the lights dimmed, I tell my students the story of how I found my first fossil while canoing down the Shenandoah River. It goes something like, “we all stopped for lunch on a beach made of rocks and when I kicked one over …what do you know! I found a fossil!” I then pass that around. I also pass around a fossil my mothers plumber gave me, another one that belongs to the camp owner, and another piece of fossilized crocodile poo that my dad got me as a gag gift for Christmas. You can imagine the reaction I get to that one. It is always some sort of collective mix of “ewwwww” and “ahhhhhh” followed by “awesome!” and “gross!”
After we talk a little about how we think fossils are made I demonstrate how we are going to make our own. First we will roll out the clay, just like we did while making our clay tiles Monday. Then we cut out a shape, just like we did while making our clay tiles Monday, except this time we don’t cut a square we cut off a one inch border and set it to the side. (The border will later become a wall) Then we roll the impression of some leaves on using the rolling pin, and press in shells. Using our border we create a wall that will keep our “instant rock” in place while it dries. (Plaster of Paris)
Friday morning after we are done making our accordion books the children discover that a hard white object has covered up their designs on their slabs of clay. “What is this?” “Where is my fossil?” I love these questions because I can always say, “I don’t know, why don’t you peel all of that clay off and find out!” and then TA_DA! an inverted replica of their design has now been discoverd on the underside of the white “instant rock”. I normally don’t like being crowded by students saying “look! LOOK!” but I make an exception for this project. I am happy that I have added an element of discovery to the project.