• Audience
    Children and families, Early years, Primary school
  • Learning stage
    Early years, Early Stage 1, Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3
  • Learning area
    Creative Arts, Science
  • Type
    Teaching resources

On this page...

Fossils are the remains of past life preserved in rock, soil or amber. There are different types of fossils because remains can be preserved in a variety of ways. An impression fossil forms when the remains of the living thing decay completely but leave an impression in the sediment. They can be of an external shape or internal space.

Students can make their own impression fossil to help them understand and be able to explain how some fossils are formed, and why they are important.

The Australian Museum Palaeontology collection consists of specimens of fossil invertebrates, vertebrates and plants, most of which are Australian.

The collection is the largest of its kind in Australia and is estimated at over 160,000 specimens. Specimens found in the Palaeontology collection span over 3,500 million years of time, and include some of earliest evidence for life on Earth, which is also found in Australia.

Palaeontology collecting at the Australian Museum began in the 1800's and continues today.

The goal of Australian Museum palaeontologists is to increase knowledge of ancient animals and plants by collecting and studying their fossilised remains. New discoveries often cause existing specimens to be reassessed, which enhances our understanding of the evolution of life on Earth.

  • Fossils aren’t just formed from dinosaur bones, they have also formed from ancient plants, bacteria, fungi, and other prehistoric animals as well.
  • The fossil of a bone doesn't have any bone in it! A fossilised skeleton or body remnant has the same shape as the original, but is chemically more like a rock.
  • Fossils help us to learn about what the climate/weather was like in the past
  • Fossils can tell us about how ancient animals and plants grew, what they ate, and how they interacted with each other.

  • How are fossils formed?
  • Why are fossils important?
  • What can fossils tell us about the past?


For this activity, you will need:

  • nature specimens such as shells, leaves, dried flowers, twigs etc.
  • air-drying clay
  • wire (to cut up clay)
  • paint and paintbrush (optional)

Follow the steps written under the slideshow to help you create your impression fossil.

Related resources