Boy, I hope your neck of the woods contains as many fossils as mine. In Central KY, we can find fossils hidden just about everywhere – and that makes our rock and fossil walks so much fun! We get to be scientists (petrologists, paleontologists, archaeologists or rockhounds – you decide) and detectives, which are pretty motivating titles for my children!
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Since we’ve been studying rocks for many years now, we’re getting better at identifying rock types without the help of a field guide. Fossils, however, are not as easy for us to identify. That means a fossil hunt is followed by a research-based identification session on the internet when we get home. That might sound like a boring homeschool assignment to some. But, when presented the right way, it becomes an exciting challenge that keeps our family busy for an entire afternoon.
The Fossil Walk Scavenger Hunt
We begin our walk on a mission to find fossils. We look closely at rocks – big rocks, little rocks and those in between. We sweep off dirt, turn them around in the sunlight, and might even put them under a magnifying glass.
When a fossil is found, we all gather together to observe it. Do we already know what it is? Is it similar to anything we’ve already found today? Are there any other fossils in the same rock? Are there any clues we need to take into account? What kind of rock is the fossil embedded in? Which type of fossil is it?
Rather than collect rocks, which we certainly could do in some cases, we usually take photographs instead. This is important if we plan to identify the fossils later through internet research. Plus, it’s a great technology tie-in to nature study – photography skills, uploading, filing, etc.
Once we return home and get the images uploaded, I’ll ask one of the kiddos to create a document of all our images and print a copy for each of us – more technology practice! Then, we set to work on identification. Our family usually works together with several of us researching on various computers/tablets at the same time. I’ve been known to assign individual research, too.
We typically begin our research by simply typing “common central KY fossils” into our search engine, which offers us several potentially helpful webpages. You can simply change the search terms to fit your region.
Our favorite webpage from the University of KY allows us to begin researching based on the shapes of our fossils. From there, we begin reading the characteristics and then type image searches to prove or disprove our suspicions. When we find images that match (or closely match) our own, we note the identification.
Once each of us have noted the fossil types on our printouts, we might simply file that paper in our nature journal.
If you’d like to get in a bit more technology practice, you can ask your children to do what I did and create labels on the photos using a photo editor like PicMonkey. This requires your children to upload, create, save and file. They can then use the new images to create blog posts, upload to FB or Instagram, print off new pages for their nature journal, print off to create a fossil poster, include as illustrations in a research paper they write… Making your fossil walk quickly and (almost) painlessly turn into project-based learning!
The great part about a fossil walk – it can easily be done in any season! If it’s too hot or cold for you today, pin the idea for later. I’m sure you’re child will love this walk!
If you’re looking for more easy-to-implement nature walks that pack a lot of educational punch into some serious fun, you’ll love 100+ Creative Nature Walks. If you’re interested in studying one particular nature/science topic thoroughly, you might prefer one of the 19 NaturExplorers studies I’ve written. You’ll also find some seasonal nature/science studies in my store. I’ve got ya covered with learning ideas so you can simply enjoy your children and all the wonderful adventures that await!