Tag: Fossils

The Amazing Fossil Book Giveaway

We have a special book for STEM Friday today.

The word about Fossil by Bill Thomson is simply, “Wow!”

Fossil cover

In this new wordless picture book, the intended storyline follows a boy and his dog walking on a beach. When the boy accidentally cracks open a fossil of a fern, actual ferns emerge. When they break open a fossil dragonfly, a living dragonfly skims away. The next fossil the boy opens is…

Because it is a wordless book, the reader is the one who develops the story based on the illustrations. It can change every time you read the book.

The book trailer is a great way to see how it can work:


Isn’t that amazing? By the way, Bill Thomson’s stunning illustrations are all done by hand, using acrylic paint and colored pencils.


Would you like to win a copy? Two Lions/Amazon is pleased to offer a giveaway copy of Fossil to one winner (U.S. addresses only). All you need to do is leave a comment on this post (with a legitimate e-mail address so we can contact you if you win) by December 6, 2013 at 11:59 P.M. PST. Entrants will be numbered in the order received and then selected at random. Note:  to increase your chances of winning be sure to visit some of the other participants in the blog tour, because most are also offering giveaways. Check the blog tour links listed below for details. Edit: The giveaway has now ended and the winner has been notified. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Fossil is so stimulating, it is sure to raise questions. Here are some links for related information and activities:

1. Ferns

Ferns are a group of plants that have been found as fossils, but also can be found in forests today.


They are vascular plants, which means they have the internal channels that move water and nutrients (xylem and phloem). Ferns differ from other vascular plants because they reproduce by spores. More about ferns at Mosses, ferns, liverworts and horsetails at Growing with Science.

2. Dragonflies


These insects with large eyes and wings that stick straight out have also been found in fossils. Some of the relatives of dragonflies were larger that those found today, with wingspans over two feet wide! The adults feed on insects they catch in the air, especially pesky mosquitoes.The immature forms or nymphs live in the water.

See Dragonflies and damselflies at Growing with Science.

3. Pteranodon

One of the fun things about the book, is that kids can call the large winged reptile whatever they feel comfortable calling it. The generic name for it is pterosaur, which means “flying lizard.”

Some people have called all these flying creatures with leathery wings “pterodactyls.” Technically the genus Pterodactylus consists of only smaller pterosaurs with teeth, so you won’t catch experts calling them that.

The larger pterosaurs that lack teeth and have large crests belong to the genus Pteranodon. The creature in the book is a Pteranodon.

If you are local, it turns out there’s an exhibit of pterosaurs  called Rulers of the Prehistoric Skies at the Arizona Museum of Natural History right now. Even if you aren’t local, you can download a free educator’s guide – see “Rulers of the Prehistoric Skies” under “Current Exhibit.”

Related fossil activities at Growing With Science:

Links to free guides to accompany the book at Amazon :

Fossil by Bill Thomson is sure to charge up the reader’s imagination. See where it leads your children today!

Age Range: 3 – 7 years
Publisher: Two Lions (November 5, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1477847006
ISBN-13: 978-1477847008

See a short review of Bill’s previous book, Chalk, at our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil.

Previous stops on the blog tour:

Disclosures: This book was provided for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon, and if you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.


Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

Weekend Science Fun: More Rocks, Crystals, and Fossils for Kids

Our post today was inspired by the Let’s Rock series of books, as well as a visit to the Flagg Gem and Mineral Show that is being held in Mesa, Arizona this weekend (Jan. 6-8, 2012). The show is a great place to take kids, with a lot of child-friendly booths.

About the Let’s Rock series books (which just came out in paperback this month):

1. Crystals by Richard Spilsbury and Louise Spilsbury explains what crystals are and how they form. The text includes mini-biographies of scientists who made important discoveries about crystals, and also includes hands-on activities, such as panning for crystals and growing your own crystals. It is packed with fascinating information.

Crystals are minerals that form in such a way that they reach their optimal shape, often having clearly defined sides, corners and edges. Crystals either grow from magma as it cools, or form when water containing loads of dissolved minerals slowly evaporates. The types that come from water may form at the surface or in caves deep underground. The book has an amazing photograph of gypsum crystals that formed in a cave that are so big they dwarf the men climbing on them (or you can see the photograph at National Geographic).

This is a calcite crystal my son got at the show. Calcite is an abundant mineral, probably the most common. It comes in a variety of colors and shapes. Some forms, such as the pink calcite here, may flouresce under UV light and phosphoresce (continues to glow) after it has been in the sun.

Crystal Activities:

A. Test to see if a crystal contains calcite


  • Crystals to test
  • Acid, such as weak hydrochloric (strong vinegar may work)
  • Dropper

You can tell if a crystal contains calcite by applying a few drops of an acid to the surface. Calcite will release carbon dioxide gas when treated with an acid, causing bubbles to form.

You can see the results in this video:

B. Open a geode

A geode is hollow roundish-shaped rock that often contains crystals. Obtain a geode from a rock shop, show or online and then crack it open. Note:  It’s always a good idea to wear eye protection when using hammers on rocks. Once you know what a geode looks like, keep you eyes open for naturally occurring ones.

Edit: Or you can make a homemade geode.

Can you spot the garnet crystals in this rock?

More related activities:

Growing crystals here at Growing With Science

Grow Spikes of Crystals in the Sun at Exploratorium

2. Fossils by Richard Spilsbury and Louise Spilsbury discusses how fossils form, where they are found, and also gives instructions for making your own trace fossil using plaster. Budding geologists are going to love this fact-filled book.

As a biologist who studies living creatures, I find myself drawn to the fossils. I added a few to my collection yesterday, although I left behind a lovely trace fossil of spider footprints that was very cool!

Fossil Search Activity:

One of the booths at the Gem and Mineral show had a bin full of sand filled with small fossils, which is a fun searching activity for young children.


  • play sand
  • large bin (or sandbox)
  • small fossils (available online or at shows)
  • colander or other tools for sifting sand (optional)
  • hand lens or magnifying glass to examine the fossils closely

Place the sand in a bin or sandbox. Mix in sample fossils and let the children hunt for them. If your children are interested in dinosaurs, a few small plastic dinosaurs might be a fun addition, too.

Coral fossil

Shell fossil

Leaf fossil

Other posts with related activities:

Archelon and Other Fossils

Petrified Wood

3. Metamorphic Rocks by Chris Oxlade examines what metamorphic rocks are, how they form and some common types. The book contains instructions for making a model metamorphic rock out of clay and chocolate, as well as suggestions of books and websites where you can find out more.

Rocks are grouped into three types:  igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. Metamorphic rocks are formed when the other two types, igneous or sedimentary, are exposed to extremes in temperature and/or pressure, or sometimes chemicals (especially in hydrothermal solutions). Typically this occurs deep within the earth.

Metamorphic rocks often have bands or layers of color where the mineral segregated during formation.

For example, see the bands in this sample of gneiss, a metamorphic rock:

One of our favorite demonstrations of how metamorphic rocks forms is a machine at Arizona State University that turns ordinary table salt and pepper into a hard rock. How? The secret is that the machine applies a good deal of pressure and the two substances meld together. It is very cool! We saw this at the Earth and Space Exploration Day.

Common metamorphic rocks include marble (from limestone), slate (from shale), quartzite (from sandstone), gneiss (often from granite) and schist. See page 17 in the book for hints for identifying each type.

Metamorphic Rock Activity:

Because metamorphic rock is often harder than other types of rocks, it is used for buildings and statues. Look for slate or marble floors, marble statues and headstones, slate tiles, quartzite blocks, counter tops etc. in public buildings near you.

Leave us a comment and let us know what you find.

Found out more about rocks and minerals

Books (Affiliate links go to Amazon):

Crystals (Let’s Rock) by Richard Spilsbury and Louise Spilsbury

Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Publisher: Heinemann Raintree (January 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1432946927
ISBN-13: 978-1432946920

Fossils (Let’s Rock) by Richard Spilsbury and Louise Spilsbury

Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Publisher: Heinemann Raintree (January 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1432946900
ISBN-13: 978-1432946906

Metamorphic Rocks (Let’s Rock) by Chris Oxlade

Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Publisher: Heinemann Raintree (January 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1432946889
ISBN-13: 978-1432946883

Books were provided by publisher for review purposes.

Weekend Science Fun: Archelon and Other Fossils

Our science fun today is inspired by the new picture book, The Voyage of Turtle Rex by Kurt Cyrus. Cyrus makes the story of an extinct sea turtle come alive with striking illustrations and crystal-quality rhyme. For my full review of the book, see Wrapped In Foil blog.

Activity 1. Learn about Archelon, the extinct sea turtle and then draw a picture of what you think it might have looked like.

The main character of the book, an Archelon, is an ancient sea turtle known only from fossils. It was a giant by today’s standards, up to fifteen feet long. Archelon shells were leathery and where supported by a skeleton. They had wide arms and legs that moved like flippers.

Archelon‘s life cycle is assumed to be similar to modern sea turtles. The female turtles probably laid their eggs in the sand on the shores of vast oceans. The small turtles headed to the water once they hatched. The shape of the mouth suggests they may have fed on squid and other aquatic invertebrates.

The Black Hills Institute of Geological Research has information about an Archelon fossil that was discovered in the 1970’s, including a series of photographs of the discovery.

In the book, Cyrus describes the giant sea turtle going to the bottom and sleeping in the mud. The technical term for this form of overwintering by reptiles is “brumation.” Some evidence suggests at least one of the fossil turtles may have been in brumation when it died. There is some question whether an ocean-going creature would brumate because most reptiles go to the bottom and cover themselves with mud to avoid periods of extreme cold in shallow ponds or lakes, but not in oceans.

Illustration from Wikimedia.

Now, imagine what you think Archelon might have looked like. Draw your own version of this extinct, giant sea turtle.

If you want to more information, try:

Kurt Cyrus’ illustrations for the book

BBC has an artist’s rendition of Archelon.

Sea World’s InfoBook on Sea Turtles

Activity 2. Looking for Fossils

Have you seen fossils at a museum or at a gem show? Have you ever tried to find one yourself?

Some places are easier to find fossils than others. In general, look for areas with sedimentary rooks, which are rocks that form in water from soil particles that fall to the bottom. Examples of sedimentary rocks are shale, limestone, and sandstone.

Places where rocks are exposed are good places to start. Try the shore of a lake, a creek bed, or a newly plowed field.

Note:  Always be sure that you have permission to explore when you are on someone’s property, and keep safety in mind. Hazards of fossil hunting include encountering dangerous animals hiding under rocks, or pinched fingers, hands or feet from dropped rocks.

Check with you local geology club(s) or state organizations for tips about finding fossils.

For example, here is a website that shows Where to Find Fossils in Arizona.

Activity 3. Make a Model Fossil

This type of model fossil demonstrates the “pre-mineralization” process of fossilization. It requires a week or longer.


  • sponges (enough for each child)
  • table salt
  • water and container to mix in
  • a few inches of play sand in a waterproof container big enough to hold the sponges
  • scissors
  • marker
  • clip art of bones, shells and/or sea turtles (optional)
  • measuring cups
  • spoon

Mix 2/3 cup salt into 1 2/3 cups water in a container to make salty water. Set aside.

Have each child draw the outline of an object to “fossilize” on a sponge. Cut out the shape. Bury the sponge shape in the play sand so that it is completely covered. Pour some of the salty water into the sand to wet the sponges.  You may have to make more salt water, depending on the number of sponges you need to cover. Double or triple the recipe as needed.

Set the sand container in a warm spot. Over the next week, wet the sponges daily with fresh salty water. Let them dry as much as possible between applications. At the end of the week, let the sponges dry in the sand completely. Once dry, gently brush away the sand and remove the sponge fossils. They should have hardened as the salt formed a crust within the pores.

Utah Education Network has this and other fossil activities in a complete lesson

If your child is interested in dinosaurs, or you are doing a dinosaur unit, The Voyage of Turtle Rex is a wonderful way to introduce young children to similar animals.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books (April 4, 2011)
ISBN-10: 9780547429243
ISBN-13: 978-0547429243