ALUMNUS Spring 2022 - Mississippi State University

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HOMEMADE FOSSILS FOR AT-HOME FUN Families don’t have to wait for the next MSU Science Night at the Museums to enjoy learning about and digging for fossils. Homemade salt-dough “fossils” can be a fun way to introduce children to paleontology and archaeology through hands-on learning.


Derek Anderson, an archaeologist and outreach coordinator for the Cobb Institute, was among those who braved the cold night air to witness the trashcan-based eruptions. He said he hoped it would help all the young minds in attendance to understand what knowledge can really do. “You can sit a kid down with a physics or chemistry book but if they can be out on the sidewalk and see a garbage can full of PingPong balls explode, that’s a little different,” Anderson explained. Based on the smiling faces of all ages that were still enjoying science night as it wrapped up at 8 p.m., both Anderson and Paul are hopeful that their science-is-fun message hit its mark. “It’s honestly a really great way to capture students at a young age and guide them to science and engineering and math and all this cool stuff,” Paul said. “So, if you have kids, definitely bring them and maybe they will one day choose Mississippi State for their college career.” n

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2 cups of all-purpose flour

Food coloring (optional)

1 cup of salt 1/2 cup of warm water Various plastic dinosaurs, cookie cutters or other objects to make impressions


1. Mix the flour, salt and water to form a dough. It should be about the consistency of play dough. If it is too sticky, slowly add a small amount of flour. Dough can be divided and dyed with food coloring if desired. 2. Use a small portion of the dough to create a ball and press it flat with the palm of your hand. Refrigerating the dough can make it easier to manipulate. 3. Lightly press your “fossil” object into the dough to leave an impression. 4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to complete your fossil collection. 5. Gently place the imprinted dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees for 1-2 hours until the dough becomes hard. Leftover dough can be stored in an air-tight container and refrigerated for up to three days. For extra fun, try burying each one in a sandbox or backyard garden. Use paint brushes and garden tools to “excavate” your homemade treasures. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU