Dig this!

DISPATCH – May 1, 2020

Hi Trailblazers, welcome back! This week we only have one activity for you to dig into… We’re going to step into the shoes of palaeontologists on our very own dinosaur excavation!


Did you know that palaeontology isn’t just the study of dinosaurs but the study of many different types of ancient life forms including plants and animals? Specifically, palaeontologists study fossils to learn about life on earth millions of years ago.

A fossil is formed when a plant or animal dies and is then covered by layers of mud, silt, sand and volcanic ash over millions of years. During that time, water seeps into the bones or organic matter and leaves behind minerals that turns them into rock! Check out this video from the Natural History Museum about the formation of fossils:

When palaeontologists do discover a fossil they use shovels, drills, hammers, and chisels to get it out of the ground. This is tricky work, and they must be extra careful not to break the fossil as they remove it!

Despite their best efforts, fossils are often broken when palaeontologists first find them, so they need to be cleaned and reassembled. But that’s easier said than done since fossil skeletons and skulls are often found incomplete. This means palaeontologists must reconstruct missing pieces by looking at similar specimens to hopefully figure out what the dinosaur looked like! Its like a very old, very difficult 3D-jigsaw puzzle!


Raptor Dinosaur, Montana, USA

Want to try your hand at being a palaeontologist? Check out this dinosaur excavation activity! What you’ll need is:

  • Cornstarch
  • A container (any size or shape, we like using Tupperware)
  • Water
  • A plastic toy (dinosaur, animal or plant)
  • Your choice of tools (plastic hammer, paint brush, etc.)


We want to see what you dig up! Snap a picture and ask an adult to share it on social media! You can tag us @ROMToronto and use the hashtag #ROMTrailblazers

We’ll be back next week with a full Gazetteer of three new activities! 

Mahmoud and Caitlin

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