A trip to a local fossil dig is an interesting way to add some adventure to our regular homeschool week. We headed out to Clarkia Miocene Flora Fossil Dig in Idaho with our 3 kids to see what we could find. Evidently, the Miocene time period is the first geological epoch of the Neogene period. We mostly found impressions of leaves which were trapped between layers of sediment that later hardened into rock. Our family discovered that digging for fossils is a pretty cool hands-on science activity!
Video! Fossil Dig Homeschool Field Trip + Interactive Activity
At the fossil dig, we listened to instructions about how to separate the rock layers to find organic fossils. We used butter knives to separate pieces of rock. The kids learned how to slide the blade between the visible layers of rock, to excavate within. As the rock flaked off, we discovered many darkened impressions of leaf prints in the rock!
Leaves in the Layers of Rock
Going to the Idaho fossil dig allows you to discover your own historic treasures and even take them home. The rock lies in piles near the fossil dig and also in layers along the hillside. Our kids had fun collecting various sizes of rocks and slicing them apart horizontally. Within many of the rock pieces, we found leaves of all sizes and varieties. It felt pretty amazing to see remnants of living things buried in the rock for countless years, just waiting to be discovered!
Why don’t we say millions of years?
Our family holds the Creationist view of our world and nature. We believe God created the earth as we know it, approximately 10 to 12 thousand years ago. Science provides a multitude of evidence that species can adapt over time and “evolve” in small ways to respond to their environments. However “something” does not come from nothing in the natural course of cause and effect, as we can see with our own eyes. We believe our Creator God designed our world, and we love exploring it and seeing all the amazing details in nature!
Flaky Earthy Rock
I wanted to mention that the “rock” that we were digging through very much felt like compressed soil. It was easy to break apart and crumble in your hand. The quality of the sediment is partly why it’s easy to slice the layers apart with a butter knife. The Clarkia Fossil Bowl was a great opportunity for our kids to “dig in” and get their hands dirty!
Preserve Your Fossils
When you find fossils at the Clarkia Miocene Flora Fossil Dig in Idaho, you can wrap them in newspaper and take them home. Exposing the rock shards to air can dry them out and cause the fossils to crumble. Because of this, it’s recommended to store the fossils in a cool area at home, that’s out of direct sunlight.
It was pretty amazing that we could discover and bring home little pieces of the past. The fossils may indicate that long ago, this area of Idaho was more humid and hotter than today’s climate. If your kids have dreamed of searching for dinosaur bones, they will love digging for flora fossils in Clarkia, Idaho.
Unearthing organic fossils from long ago is a great way to learn more about geology. Kids can see first hand how natural materials that are buried in sediment can leave an impression behind. Many of these fossils look like dark leaf-shaped marks within the lighter colored rock. In some of the rocks, you can see veins and stems left behind by the leaves. Each fossil looks different from another!
Digging up fossils was a great field trip for our homeschool family. For kids who are enthusiastic to learn new things and enjoy getting their hands dirty, Clarkia Idaho Miocene Flora Fossil Dig is definitely worth checking out!
Kids Flora Fossils Science Activity
After we got home from the Clarkia Fossil Bowl, we did a creative kids science activity! This hands-on experiment shows kids how fossils could be formed. We used several different types of dirt representing sediment, individual leaves, and cookie sheets to spread out layers of dirt.
My kids enjoyed visualizing how leaves could fall into layers of dirt / sediment and get buried over time. Over many, many years, the layers of sediment could harden under pressure, allowing the flora (leaves) to create indentations.
Fossil Activity Materials
Easily do this kids science activity yourself to show your own kids how fossils could be formed over time!
- workspace such as a cookie sheet
- quantity of dirt and sand
- small scoop
- individual leaves, both fresh and dried
- small rocks to toss on top
Simulate how Flora Fossils are Formed
First, spread a layer of dirt onto the cookie sheet. This can be any type of dirt that’s fairly fine and uncluttered with debris.
Next, arrange fresh and dried leaves on top of the dirt.
Once you’ve added the flora, spread a layer of sand on top, fully covering the leaves. Smooth out the surface of the “ground”.
Finally, scatter an assortment of rocks on top and drop an additional leaf or two. This simulates a realistic section of the ground you might find anywhere.
Explain to your kids that over time, the ground around the buried leaves could harden under pressure, as more and more layers of dirt, sand and soil are added on top. Through rain, seasons, different environmental factors and climate change, the leaves buried within the sediment could break down and leave behind impressions. We found some of those flaky impressions at the Clarkia Fossil Bowl!
This simple activity is a easy way for kids to visualize how layers of sediment build up over time. My kids loved playing in the dirt, and then taking their exploration out to the backyard! Overall, we really enjoyed our family adventure and hands-on fossil study!
Hi, I’m Katie! I live with my husband and 3 kids in beautiful Coeur d’Alane, Idaho. I love Jesus, coffee, DIY projects, photography, homeschooling my kids, traveling, and serving people. I’ve previously worked as a graphic designer, web designer, journalist and barista. I started Create. Play. Travel. to share some of our creative projects and family adventures. I hope you enjoy the highlights of our creative family life!