I never outgrew my childhood fascination with dinosaurs, which is actually part of why I decided to take my current position as it is located in a state with lots of dinosaur fossil sites and trackways, and I work dinosaurs into my programs as often as I think I can get away with. Luckily, most kids love dinosaurs, so it's a win-win for everyone. When I saw that April 18th was "Velociraptor Appreciation Day", I figured that was as good an excuse as any to do a paleontology theme for my monthly STEM program.
This is a hybrid program that combines a take-home kit of supplies and a video presentation. The kit has a booklet with some basic info, QR links & URL's for the library's Facebook page and YouTube channel where the program can be viewed, very basic instructions for the activities, thought questions, and book suggestions and/or other resources for more information. The video component not only demonstrates the activities and provides an opportunity for asking questions, but usually has additional information presented. The program is usually for ages 6-10, but ages 3-5 would also be fine with this particular one, as long as they had an adult or older sibling assisting/supervising.
Materials Provided In Kit
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup plastic container
- small amount of brown acrylic paint in paint pot
- 2 cotton swabs
- 2 small plastic dinosaurs
- 1 small plastic dinosaur skeleton
- 1-1/2 cup water, divided
- mixing bowl
- spoon or stiff spatula
- additional toy dinosaurs (optional)
- foil or baking sheet
- small tools for "digging"
6. When satisfied with your imprints, place the dough on a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees for about 4 hours and let cool completely. Now it will be hard, simulating how real footprints are fossilized. (In an arid environment, air-drying might also work, but would several days.)
6. Once the surface feels and looks very dry, loosen the sides and then turn it out onto a plate, tray, or foil pan and let dry for one more day. If it becomes too dry, it will crumble immediate and be too easy to dig out. Once you see the first hint of fine cracks, it is definitely ready; the one below is too dry.
7. Use small tools for digging out your dinosaur bones, such as a small precision flathead screwdriver, skewer or tooth picks, nut picks, plastic knife, and paintbrushes.
Measuring out all the flour, salt, and cornstarch was very messy, so be prepared and do it in a room with an easy to clean floor. If anyone had seen my stash of baggies of white powder, they probably would have gotten the completely wrong idea of how I earn a living. I did make sure they were clearly labeled, of course. But it was kinda sketchy looking 🤣.