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Digging in the Past


The study of fossil formation doesn't have to be in far away lands.  Recreate the excitement of being on a dig discovering the remains of an animal now extinct, the thrill of uncovering each part, and the satisfaction of identification.  This web site will help you to share this adventure with your students.

Background information about the geological time scale formation is included in this site for the teacher's and students benefit.  Sources of other helpful information are given for future study.  Also provided is a hands-on activity lesson plan for a simulated fossil dig utilizing the scientific method in accordance with the Arkansas Curriculum Frameworks.  A worksheet gives the students the opportunity to identify how fossils were formed and to explain how the classification was made.

Pique your students' interest by sharing the information that Arkansas was once part of the Gulf of Mexico and the knowledge fossils give proved this theory.  The Saratoga Chalk Formation, near Milwood Lake in southern Arkansas, has a multitude of easily assessible fossils.  These fossils are easily identifiable as salt-water (gulf) organisms.  NO special tools or permits are needed to gather these fossils.  Since there are no facilities nearby, a field trip might not be feasible with students.  Nevertheless, it is an excellent source of fossils for the classroom.

Happy digging. 


A fossil is the remains of a past life.  It includes anything that's a clue to past life, such as bones, shells, trails, footprints, or an outline of an organism.  Fossils relate what life was like on earth before humans appeared. 

Most plants and animals are eaten by animals or are decayed by bacteria or fungi.  Fossils can be formed only when the organisms are protected from decay.  Since harder parts of organisms, such as wood, shells, and bones, decay more slowly than their softer substances, such as leaves, skin, and muscles, they are more likely to be preserved.

Plants and animals that lived in dry areas left fewer fossils than those that lived in damp places or in water.  Minerals contained in water helped to form fossils.  Few fossils are found of organisms without hard parts such as shell or bone.

By using fossils, scientists have been able to formulate a record of plants, animals, and people from the past.

Dinosaur Ridge, CO
Photo by L. Arnold

Project Author: Sherry Tutt

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