Frozen dinosaur excavation activity : Fizzics Education


Frozen dinosaur excavation activity

Frozen dinosaur excavation activity

Follow FizzicsEd 150 Science Experiments:

You will need:

Dinosaur replica toys

A container filled with water

A freezer

A screwdriver & hammer

Safety glasses

A metal tray or plate to catch the mess


1 Adding a dinosaur toy to the tray of water

Place your dinosaur replica or bone into a tray of water. We used an Australian Muttaburrasaurus replica for our activity!

2 Tray of water and dinosaur toy on the freezer shelf

Place your dinosaur and water tray into the freezer and wait until frozen. Our activity was left overnight.


Take your frozen dinosaur specimen out and have a look at it. You might find trapped water bubbles around the toy replica.

4 Chipping away at the ice around the yellow dinosaur with a screwdriver

Put some safety glasses on. Gently chip away around the edge of the dinosaur to remove the ice. You might need to lightly tap with the hammer at the end of the screwdriver.

5 Dinosaur toy stuck in ice with its head poking out

As you free the dinosaur replica, use a reference book to identify which type of dinosaur you have.

6 Dinosaur nearly out of the ice block

Keep going until you free the dinosaur!

Is this what a real dinosaur dig is like?

Kind of… and then again, kind of not!

A real dinosaur dig can be very different depending on the location that the remains are found. Often the remains are highly fragile and as such the supporting rock matrix around the dinosaur fossil needs to be intact around the fossil so that it can be safely moved in a plaster jacket back to the museum. There are some sites around the world where the dinosaur remains are surrounded for meters by hard rock, in which case the surrounding rock can be carefully chipped away.

In Australia, some fossil specimens can be found on the ground surface whereas others are buried under soil overburden that needs to be removed. In some cases, this soil can be moved by shovels and then fine brushes, in other cases a front end loader is needed.

Find out more about fossil digs in Australia

Steven Rumbold from the Australian Age of Dinosaurs and the FizzicsEd Podcast Episode 39 600 x 305px

Listen to Steven Rumbold describing work at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum

Extension ideas

  • Colour the water brown and add silt and small pebbles to simulate a rocky matrix.
  • Freeze a larger dinosaur skeleton replica and have students place string lines across it horizontally and vertically. These can act as the quadrants that students can work on to remove the various pieces. If you jumble up the skeleton pieces & remove some of the bones all together it’ll be more realistic!

Learn more!


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