1. Display the illustrations to show students one way a fossil forms.
Scroll through the color illustrations and read aloud the captions to help students understand why some fossils are found in sediment layers. Explain that the newest layers are on the top and the oldest layers are on the bottom. Scientists study these layers to determine the age of the rock and the fossils within. Tell students they are going to make an edible model of fossils found in sediment layers.

2. Have students draw their models.
Provide each student with a cup or bowl, drawing paper, and a pencil. Have students draw their cup or bowl on a piece of paper. Then ask them to add lines to indicate “sediment layers.” Have students refer to the black-and-white illustration for clues, as needed.

3. Have students label their drawings.
Have students label the top layer “newest” and the bottom layer “oldest.” Then have them draw and label some “sea creatures” in each layer.

4. Have students select their ingredients.
Ask each student to select their ingredients from the variety available. Tell them to choose based on what they will use to represent the sediment layers and sea creatures. For the sea creatures, students can use edible snacks such as raisins, chocolate candies, gummy candies, vanilla wafers, hard candies, or fish-shaped fruit snacks. For the sediment layers, students can use edible ingredients such as coconut flakes, whipped cream, pudding, chilled gelatin, crushed cookies, and decorating sprinkles.

5. Have students prepare their fossils.
Have students use their drawings as guides to build their models. Have them make animals from selected ingredients. For example, students can add food coloring to vanilla wafers to represent an ammonite or shark tooth. They can cut fish-shaped fruit snacks into the shapes of prehistoric sea creatures.

6. Have students build models.
Ask students to spread a layer of sediment ingredients and add some sea creatures in their bowl or cup. Then have them repeat, using different materials for each layer.

7. Allow students time to enjoy their treat and discuss the activity.
Allow students time to eat the model. As they eat, encourage them to notice the different layers and where they find the fossils within them.

Subjects & Disciplines

  • Earth Science
    • Geology

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • draw, label, and create a model of fossils found in sediment layers

Teaching Approach

  • Learning-for-use

Teaching Methods

  • Discussions
  • Hands-on learning
  • Visual instruction

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

  • Critical Thinking Skills
    • Creating
    • Understanding

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Science Education Standards

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Clear cups or bowls
  • Edible baking ingredients
  • Edible snack foods
  • Markers
  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Scissors
  • Spoons
  • Transparent tape

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Optional
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Large-group instruction

Background Information

Scientists use models to help them understand natural processes.

Prior Knowledge

  • None

Recommended Prior Activities

  • None



remnant, impression, or trace of an ancient organism.



This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1114251. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.