Paper No. 10-7
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
USING POLYMER CLAYS TO MAKE MOLDS AND CASTS OF FOSSILS FOR TEACHING AND OUTREACH
Polymer/polyvinyl chloride clays can be used to produce relatively simple detailed molds and casts of fossil teaching specimens for use by students. These “make and bake” clays are available in dozens of colors and can be found in most craft stores. Molds and casts made from polymer clays can be produced within about half an hour using nothing more than a small household toaster oven. These molds and casts are suitable for production of student study materials and even exam materials due to their ability to capture detailed morphology. Importantly, students, or even K-12 children, can fabricate the molds and casts themselves, enhancing “hands-on” activities as well as facilitating discussion of preservation modes (external molds, natural casts, etc.). Polymer molds and casts make ideal specimens for use in outreach activities due to the widespread use of polymer clays in primary and secondary school art classes. Newer formulas of these polymer clays are phthalate- and lead-free and safe for use by children. However, it is probably best to store polymer molds and casts separately from original teaching specimens due to the potential release of hydrochloric acid vapors. We have produced molds and casts of representatives of the following fossil specimens: ammonites, brachiopods, bryozoans, corals, gastropods, mammal osteoderms and teeth, plants, reptile osteoderms and teeth, shark teeth, stromatolites, tracks, and trilobites.