Ice Excavation

On a trip to Michael’s a few months ago, my son talked me into this $5 set of Dinosaur skulls.  We played with them at the beach this summer, pretending to be paleontologists digging up fossils in the sand.  I rediscovered them again this week as I was doing our quarterly playroom purge, and as we head into winter, I thought it would be fun to move our fossil excavation to the Ice Caps (well, sort of – we are in Northern California, so the Ice Age does feel very far away.)

To get us set up, I filled Dixie cups with water and dropped the dinosaur skulls in.  Two of them I stuck right into the freezer; the other two I tried filling first with a bit of water (1/4″ or so), freezing for 30 minutes, and then adding the dino skulls and more water — so we’d have a thicker layer of ice on top of the skulls.  To be honest, it didn’t seem to make a huge difference in the outcome, so I’d say you could go either way.

After 24 hrs in the freezer, we popped them right out of the Dixie Cups.  I placed them on top of a paper towel on a baking sheet, to contain the melting ice.

S & I discussed what tools a paleontologist would use to excavate fossils from ice, and what ones she might need.  We decided on a (kid) knife, a pumpkin carver, and hot water.  She started out using a straw to drop the water on the ice (a pipette or water dropper would be even better, if you have one)…

…but decided that was too slow, so moved on to using a teaspoon to speed things up a bit.


After 10 minutes or so, we started to see some results!  She was very excited to see the fossils starting to emerge…

At this point, S decided it was time to move to the Big Gun, so she grabbed the little pumpkin carving tool left over from Halloween (I watched her to make sure she was good to handle this on her own.)  (Can you tell that she’s a Biter, not a Licker, with her lollipops??)


She continued until she had almost completely freed the fossil from the ice / it had melted into the baking pan.  She was so proud of her paleontology skills!

Bonus fun: we repeated this again with the other two Dixie cups when big brother H got home from school, and discovered that a baking sheet + a little water + a frozen puck = a great mini hockey game!



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