Paleontology Badge

(Discover Science and Technology)
By Kerry Cordy

Paleontology is more than just the study of dinosaurs, it is the study of all prehistoric life, usually
through the study of fossils.


(You may use any higher level requirement as an optional requirement.)


Penguin:  Do three requirements including the two starred.

_____ 1 *   Learn to identify at least three different prehistoric creatures.

_____ 2.*  Learn about what a fossil is.


Otter:  Do four requirements including the two starred.

_____ 1.*  Do Penguin requirements 1 & 2.

_____ 2. *  Be able to answer the following questions.

•        What is a fossil?

•        What does the word "Dinosaur" mean?

•        What is a paleontologist?

•        Where can you find fossils?


Dolphin:  Do five requirements including the two starred.

_____ 1.*  Do Otter requirements 1 & 2.

_____ 2.*  Learn about the Triassic, Jurassic and the Cretaceous periods and place them on a timeline.  Learn
about at least one living organism from each period.


Butterfly:  Do six requirements including the two starred.

_____ 1.*  Do Dolphin requirements 1 & 2.

_____ 2.*  Explain and identify the following types of fossils:

Mold Fossils (impression fossils)
Cast Fossils
Trace Fossils (ichnofossils)
True Form Fossils

Find examples of each either through books, the internet (with parent's
permission) or actual fossils at an exhibit.


Eagle:  Do seven requirements including the two starred.

_____ 1.*  Do Butterfly requirements 1 & 2.

_____ 2.*  Be able to explain what fossil fuels are.  How are coal, oil, and natural gas created?  How do each of
these fossil fuels impact our environment?


Owl:  Do 9 requirements including the 2 starred:

_____ 1. *  Do Eagle requirements 1 & 2

_____ 2. *  Teach someone how to do a skill from this badge or teach some knowledge about this badge to someone.   You can teach kids, your spouse, seniors, anyone, just as long as you are sharing your new found knowledge.   If for some reason you cannot teach what you have learned to someone else, you may choose an additional 2 optional requirements instead.


Optional Requirements:

_____ 3.  Visit a dinosaur or prehistoric life exhibit.

_____ 4.  Learn about at least three different tools used in paleontology.

_____ 5.  Make your own impression fossil.

1 cup used coffee ground
½ cup cold coffee
1 cup flour
½ cup salt

Mix all ingredients until you form a firm dough (add extra flour or water if it is too dry or too sticky)

Roll out pieces of the dough and press small objects into it such as seashells, rocks, or leaves.  Let it dry
overnight an you have a fossil!

_____ 6.  Find out how organisms turn into fossils.  Understand each of the following and look at an example of

Unaltered preservation -  such as plants or insects trapped in amber, a form of tree sap
Permineralization (Petrification) – minerals fill in the pores and spaces of organic tissue, but organic tissue still
Replacement – shell or bone is replaced with another mineral and no organic tissue remains.
Carbonization (Coalification)  - only the carbon remains from the organism.
Recrystalization –smaller crystals turn to larger crystals or  hard parts of the organism turn into more stable
Authigenic Preservation – molds and casts of organisms that have been destroyed or dissolved.)

_____ 7.  Learn about trackways (fossilized footprints).  Discuss how these fossils may give us information

Speed and length of stride of the animal
Whether they walked on 2 or 4 legs
The bone structure of the foot
The existence of herds or stampedes
How the tail was carried (did it drag on the ground, or was it held up high?)

_____ 8.  Find out what a coprolite is.  What is the largest coprolite that has been discovered?  What animal do
they think it came from?

_____ 9.  Make a plaster cast fossil.

_____ 10.  Participate in a community service project that involves paleontology.  Examples might include
teaching younger kids how to make fossils or volunteering at a local dig.

_____ 11.  Learn about the history of a petrified forest.

_____ 12.  Learn about how scientists determine the age of fossils.

_____ 13.  Write an essay about why paleontology is important to science and society.

_____ 14. Create a set of trading cards or flash cards that can help kids learn about prehistoric life.

_____ 15.  Use a cookie extraction to learn about the difficulties of extracting fossils.

You will need:
1 hard chocolate chip cookie
1 soft chocolate chip cookie
1 hard raisin cookie
1 soft raisin cookie
24 toothpicks
2 paper towels
A timer

Set a time for 3 minutes.  Place the hard chocolate chip cookie on a paper towel.  Using only 6 toothpicks, try to
take all of the chocolate chips out of the hard chocolate chip cookie without damaging the chocolate chips and
place them on the second paper towel.  As your toothpicks break or wear down, trade them for a new one, but
do not use more than 6 total.  Stop at the end of 3 minutes and see what you have.  Do the same for each of
the other cookies.

Discuss the difficulty of the different cookies.  Which were easier to extract intact, the chocolate chips or the
raisins?  Which cookie was easier to deal with, the hard or the soft?  Discuss how this exercise compares to
actual fossil extraction.

_____ 16.  Explore fossils and geologic layers with a park ranger at a national or state park.

_____ 17.  Go on a fossil hunt in your community.  Look at buildings, sidewalks, and other places where plants
or animals may have left their mark.  Use a magnifying glass to hunt for signs of tiny shells or imprints.

Websites:  These websites are not associated with our program and we cannot guarantee their
content.  Please do not surf the internet without your parent's permission.

Great Resource for Fossil Links

Great Fossil Activities

Determining the Age of Fossils

Geologic Time Machine

How Fossils Form Activities