Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Fun Day 27 - Fossils in Oobleck, Recycling Dino Dig Kits

D (age 9), received a couple Ja-Ru DinoWorld Fossil Kits last Christmas.  They are inexpensive, grocery store aisle finds, but turned out to be some of the best fossil kits we've ever tried.  Each kit contains a small egg shaped "rock" from which to excavate the tiny plastic bones of one of six different types of dinosaurs.

There are seven bones (1 head, one body, one tail, and 4 legs) for each dinosaur.  The bones snap together into a skeleton, and fit into a stand that comes with the kit, along with a digging tool and brush.

What D liked most about the kits was that the material the the bones were buried in was perfect for excavating, more like soft sandstone, or maybe even a sandy chalk, than the brick hard substance so many of the toy fossil kits contain.  It reminded me vaguely of dried Oobleck - the non-Newtonian liquid you get when you mix one part water to two parts cornstarch.

No-one sells Ja-Ru toys in our area, and since there are only six different types of Dino World  kits to choose from anyway, I decided to try recycling what we already had by dropping our dinosaur skeletons into a paper cup filled with Oobleck and a couple of teaspoons of play sand.

To shake things up, and increase the difficulty, I dropped the bones from four different dinosaur skeletons into the same cup (after taking pictures of them sorted out correctly according to skeleton, for later reference).

The sand dropped right to the bottom, giving our finished "rock" an interesting layered look.

The plastic bones floated to the top, and had to be pushed down into the goo, as it dried.

That, in itself, proved to be a fun game for the children.

Being a non-Newtonian fluid, there is a trick to burying the bones. You have to very gently push each bone down into the more solid substance below the watery surface, and hold it in place, keeping your finger still, as the solid liquefies around your finger, and then all at once, in a very quick movement, you have to pull your finger back out, causing the liquid to solidify, trapping the bone.

If you hold your finger still for too long in the liquid, too much of it will liquefy, and you will release already buried bones.  Or, if you pull your finger out too quickly, the liquid will not solidify, and the bone will float right back to the surface.  

Once we had all the plastic bones buried, we left our fossil to dry for a couple of days, before tearing away the paper cup, and going to work, using a knitting needle and small paint brush to excavate the mound.

It worked very nicely, just as I hoped...

...except that even with the picture aids, I'm not entirely sure all the skeletons were assembled properly.  There may have been some mixing and matching of leg bones...

...and despite a thorough search, one tiny skull was never recovered (it's possible there might have been some pillaging and theft by a rival museum's team).  Luckily, D had another skeleton, that was missing a tail, to borrow from - creating a new dinosaur (tristegosaurus?)  in the process.

That's paleontology for you.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

What a fun idea to create your own excavation kit. Tristegosaurus is cracking me up!

Phyllis said...

This is great. I hate the ones that are so hard that they are no fun to excavate. I am going to have to do this instead. Thanks for posting it.

Unknown said...

You are the MASTER of recycling fun!!!

Ticia said...

Yeah, the one we'd gotten was so hard to excavate the kids got frustrated. I'm gonna have to give this a try.

A.Price said...

Love this! Just what I was planning to do, too. I hate that one kid gets to dig out the fossil and another misses out (and then mommy can never find the toy again) Thanks for sharing and helping to recycle for future learning!