Making a Meaningful Fossil Collection

Collections of anything are a good thing in teacher-land. Collections lead kids to learn. My favorite things to collect are fossils, rocks and minerals. This morning, when I began to reorganize the special new “finds” from my recent trip to Tucson, I got to thinking about all the different ways a person could go about setting up a collection. Here are just a few ideas that may help you get started.


Lots of people have one favorite kind of fossil. If you want to take a look at what happens when you REALLY get into one type, just check out this website: Dr. Gon III must truly love trilobites. I’ve been visiting his website for years and I still haven’t discovered everything he has to teach about trilobites. I’ll be he has a great collection, too!


That’s just one way to get going on fossil collecting: choose your favorite fossil and begin to collect individual specimens that represent different species, time periods and locations. I have several trilobites in my collection and they represent both early specimens from the Ordovican in the Midwest USA and Devonian in Morocco. As I am able, there will be more sophisticated…and expensive…specimens to add to my collection, but in the meantime, I have a nice group of trilobites to demonstrate all that I’ve learned about this extinct creature.

As you become aware of the time periods in which your fossil lived, you might want to begin to collect a specimen from each of the time periods since life began to flourish on the Earth. Lately, I’ve enjoyed adding to my Time Line of Life Fossil collection with some unusual little guys.

I started my TLL (that’s short for Time Line of Life) collection with a stand-alone purchased fossil collection. My first one came from Ohio and the fossils were not very spectacular. But they got me started. Next I found a set that had 12 nice quality specimens and some general information cards. As I found more places to get really good fossils, I made my own 12-piece and 18-piece collections and now they are for sale here: The 18-piece collection is my favorite because it has a wide range of species and nearly every geologic period represented.

The thing is that once I set up the 18 specimens according to the geologic time scale, I wanted to add in specimens from the missing periods…like the Triassic or the Precambrian. I went searching for specimens from these time periods and I made some great finds.

A few years back, I found Triassic petrified wood from Madagascar. These were really cool because unlike a lot of petrified wood pieces, which are beautiful, but also look like lots of other “jasper-like” rocks, you can see the design of the tree bark. Take a look at some samples at

I think I may be on to finding a new type of fossil to collect: stromatolites. Stromatolites are fossils formed by cyanobacteria. There are stromatolites that are so old they may have been responsible for changing the atmosphere into the oxygen-rich air we breath today. That’s an oversimplification, of course, but some of my more recent finds include the pale green stone called Butterstone that is 2.5 billion…that’s right, billion… years old and is known to have stromatolites in its layers. Besides the incredible color variations, the rock is naturally creamy in texture. It is a great little piece to fidget with because it feels so smooth and soft.


Then there’s the stromatolite that comes from South America. (Butterstone comes from Africa.) It is a completely different color: shades of dark brown, almost black, with bands of light brown. I especially like the carved balls and spheres. They are pretty heavy and the polish makes them feel really good in your hand. They’re pretty old, too: 2.2 billion years!stromatolite-sm-2-5

I have pieces in my collection that I found myself, a small collection of different kinds of brachiopods just because I like them, and a very small collection…almost too small to call it a collection…that contains parts of a crinoids: the holdfast that kept in tied to the ocean floor, a variety of different-sized stems and the crown or head from which the delicate fronds grew.

Of course, you don’t HAVE to organize your fossil collection in any way at all! You can just begin with a few small finds, mark them down with location, species and other pertinent info (you can find sample cards, here: and keep them on a stand or in a box.

It’s really simple…so get out there and get started!

I love sharing my own love of rocks, minerals and fossils with kids, something callers to fossilicious already know! Today a caller asked about good ways to get started with a rock club. She had great ideas already: getting acquainted, choosing a good club name, and picking a favorite rock.

You don’t need to do much to get kids excited about rocks. Like my caller, most youngsters start collecting early. She couldn’t wait to show the collection she’d made 20 or 30 years ago when she was just 8.

One of my favorite “first” activities is a rock walk. I take kids to a place where there are lots of different choices: a dry creek bed or canyon is great. I ask the kids to pick up as many rocks as they can carry, with just one rule: You can only keep one of each type.

“Each type,” you say? As the kids pick up a rock, they compare it to those already collected. If it looks like any of the other rocks, a choice must be made: Keep the new one or save the old. By the end of your walk, kids will have one sample of rocks of all colors and textures.

Now take the fun indoors. First, hand each child an inexpensive magnifying glass (you can get one at and let them take a closer look. They’ll be surprised at how some of the rocks look waaay different through the looking glass.

Then you can have different teams of kids compare their collections. It can be fun to make it an “everybody wins” game where all kids get a tasty reward for every match.

And while the kids are playing these games, you can feel proud of having practiced the most important skill needed to be a great rock hound: observation.

After this, your kids will be ready to delve into the world of the rock cycle, igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic, minerals, crystals…you’ll have no end to things to do!

So thanks, K. for giving fossilicious a call today. Here’s to a great first club day…and many more to follow! Launches Site Renovation – - Celebrates with DEEP Discounts!

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Ammonite and Sandbox Fossil Sale

Now you can create the wonder of fossils hidden in the sand by choosing from a variety of special packages…all on SALE now and FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY.

When we purchase fossils in bulk for our Timeline of Life Fossil Collections, only a small percentage pass the quality test for inclusion in the collection. The rest, whether too large, too small, incomplete, or lacking definition, must find a different purpose or be cast aside as waste.

Sandbox fossils is another way you can benefit from our high standards, because we price them at rock-bottom (no pun intended) prices and in larger quantities than our classroom collections, so they can become a plentiful sandbox treasure.

All our bulk fossils come with information card masters so you can share the gift of knowledge at exactly the moment your students are most interested: just after the discovery.

All fossils by the pound are 30% off the listed price for our readers from now through May. Buy more save more! For every 3 pounds you buy we will put in a fourth pound free!! Use coupon code fbpmay12 upon check out
Ammonites By The Pound-contains approximately 300 small ammonites, 3/4 to 1/2 inch. These are of the quality we typically put in our Timeline of Life Collection, but too small for that purpose, and are the same as our classroom packs. We are overstocked on this size and need to make room for incoming inventory. While supplies last, you can get some really beautiful ammonites at a greatly reduced price.