Skip to main content
A close up picture of a fossil being held in a hand

Lesson plan: The Great Fossil Hunters

These practical science lessons get pupils creating their own fossils, which they then learn to excavate and identify.

Activity details

Ever wondered what it might be like to be a fossil hunter? How would you excavate a fossil without damaging it and how would you identify the fossil? How is a fossil formed? In this practical science activity your students create their own fossils encased within a sedimentary rock and then have the responsibility of carefully excavating and identifying each other’s work. Has your class got the skills and patience?

Objectives and curriculum links

These lessons enable students to:

  • consider how living things have changed over millions of years (evolution)
  • be able to describe how fossils are formed
  • explain what we can learn from fossils
  • use practical skills and creativity to make a model that describes a scientific idea 

We've designed the lessons to help teachers cover the following areas of KS2 Science:



Lesson plan: part one

Lesson plan: part two

Home learning opportunity

Ask the children to find out what a palaeontologist does. You could also perhaps ask them to find out about the work of Mary Anning. The children could research the kinds of tools that palaeontologists use to carry out their work. They could draw/print pictures of the tools they use and explain how each is used. It’s great fun to get the children to bring in tools that they think are similar to/or can be used like the real tools palaeontologists use.

For example: brushes of various types, shapes, sizes, things for scraping like spoons, cocktail sticks, mini hammer (wood or plastic), magnifying glass, pencil, notebook, goggles and gloves. Explain clearly that they are not to bring in anything sharp or dangerous and everything they bring in will be checked before they use it in the next lesson.

The BBC has useful information for children on Mary Anning.


Further work

  1. The children could use poster paint to decorate their fossils and make them appear more realistic. 
  2. This guide to fossil hunting from the Ordnance Survey is useful if you want to go and search for some real fossils.

Additional health and safety about plaster of Paris

  1. From CLEAPSS 
  2. From CLEAPSS
  3. From CLEAPSS
  4. From The National Society for Education in Art and Design

With thanks to Andrew Becraft for the use of this lovely photo.

Experience Eden with your class