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Year 3 Rocks and Fossils workshop

(can be taught to other year groups)

Learn how fossils are formed, handle rare fossils and

go on your own fossil hunt in this hands-on science workshop



National Curriculum suggested year group:

Y3 (or Y6 Evolution)

Duration (for single class, multiple classes are one or two sessions each):

Full day or a single session as part of a science day

NC objectives covered:

Compare and group together different kinds of rocks / describe how fossils are formed 


It seems that children and adults can't get enough of fossils and this investigative workshop makes the fossils the stars and puts them right in the hands of your pupils to look at up close.


Using velvet lined presentation boxes with a series of rare and expensive fossils, we start with a powerful 400 x computer microscope and a detailed presentation about how fossils are formed.  In this part pupils learn in detail about the creatures that formed them tens of thousands and sometimes millions of years ago. 

They then move on to an investigation focusing on the real skills used by professional paleontologists, which involves counting, weighing, sorting and measuring fossils according to specific categories.

The activities here are adapted versions of those in our Y6 Evolution workshop so you can always book both year groups for a half day each!

an ammonite picture in our y3 fossils workshop
year 3 pupils sorting fossils

Activities in this workshop

(This can be for a single class, several classes in turn, or choose one activity as part of a multi science day with other classes)

1) Rare 'wow' fossils giant microscope presentation

an insect in amber on the big screen in our science workshop

The workshop starts with a detailed presentation about how fossils are made, including the story of great fossil hunters such as Mary Anning and a tour through the timeline of geological periods throughout the lifespan of the Earth.  


This is brought to life with real, rare and expensive fossils that are only normally available in museums for pupils to either come up and handle or pass round, such as a Woolly Mammoth tooth, a Megaladon (giant Shark) tooth and other delights such as a Giant Elk leg bone and a 1 million year old Whale vertebrae.

But that's not all, because before we finish we get even closer to the fossils with our 400x computer microscope to see one of the most amazing objects, a 10,000 year old insect trapped along with its final breath in a rare piece of Copal, which is a hardened tree sap similar to amber.

rare fossils for pupils to handle

2) Fossil hunters sorting task

sorting fossils for the year 3 rocks topic
fossil sorting boxes as used in the workshop

After the presentation has set the scene it is now time for the pupils to get down to their own investigations by using the skills of professional paleontologists.


This is in the form of four different sand boxes which mimic the following key research skills:

1) Counting mass samples (to assess species numbers in a given location)

2) Weighing samples (to assess average weight of a species)

3) Measuring length (to assess physical aspects such as gender and maturity)

4) Species classification (to recognise different species and sub-species)


This is conducted in groups but, apart from help where needed, it is carried out entirely independently by the pupils in an excellent example of learning via investigation.

3) Rock minerals identification task

(delivered as part of the above task as a rotation station)

This is an additional sorting station during the fossils task, where pupils identify and sort different minerals using special illuminated glasses and identification charts.  It links in really well with any work you are doing on rock formation and the three different types of rock; sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic.

identifying minerals in our ks2 science workshop
rocks and minerals ready to be identified
sorting different rocks and minerals in our year three science workshop
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