By Gerald Mallmann formerly of the Shoreland Lutheran High School, Somers, Wisconsin. Gerald is now retired and working on earth science text book.
A fossil hunt is a lot of fun and very informative. Fossils are the remains - or the outlines - of former plants and animal life buried in rock. The older the rock, the simpler the plant or animal. Fossils give a clue to the age of the rock strata. Fossils teach history. They tell about extinct life forms - the dinosaur for instance. Fossils also tell of ancient climates. Coral fossils found in Greenland suggest it must have been warm there once. It is not surprising to find fossil sea creatures far inland, for example, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, as well as in Ohio, Iowa, Kansas and Wisconsin. This indicates that salt water once covered what we now know as the Prairies, Midwest and the Great Lakes region of the midcontinent.
To hunt fossils for fun, profit, or knowledge enrichment requires several prerequisites. Exposure to all the geology subject material is a fine start. Visits to museums and reading fossil handbooks will help you know what to look for. Visits to, or membership in, the local rock hunter's clubs are good moves. Meaningful fossil finds are not luck, they are the culmination of a lot of thought, study and planning.
I made the fossil finder to take to the field instead of a cumbersome handbook. Cut out the two circles, cut out the black areas on the left circle, put the disk on top of the right hand disk and put a paper holder through the centre. Now when you turn the lower disk to the proper fossil group you can identify your fossil finds and use the geological timetable to date them. You can dry mount the xerox copies on card, laminate or plasticize the two disks to make them sturdier.
Unfortunately, the fossil finder is not available on the WWW version of Wat On Earth. For a copy of the fossil finder please contact Peter Russell.
NOTE: Copy the Fossil Finder in quantities for your class before setting out on a fossil hunt.