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My niece Megan came to help out in the lab this week, so I put her to work testing new activities and being my model for photographs of the lessons.  She had a ton of fun, and even suggested a few activities not on my list.  She’ll be back next week to help with some more sample lessons.

Today’s Dollar Store STEM activity is Fossils in Amber.  This is VERY simple, and I got everything I needed at the Dollar Tree this morning.  Here’s what you will need:DSCN0169

  • translucent glycerine soap
  • microwave safe bowl
  • spoon
  • plastic insects
  • mold of some sort – I used a muffin tin
  • oil
  • microwave

The idea is to embed the plastic insects in ‘amber’ – the glycerine soap.  It’s a fun activity to go along with a science lesson on fossils.  Let’s get started.

First, unwrap your soap, and place it in the bowl.



Next, put the bowl in the microwave and begin heating it.  Keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t bubble over.  We checked it about every 30 seconds.


Once the soaps start to melt, you can help the process along by stirring gently.


While the soap was melting, we greased the muffin tin we were using as our mold with a little bit of cooking oil.  Then we poured about a half inch of the melted soap into the molds, and when it began to firm up, we added a plastic insect.


We then poured the rest of the melted soap on top to cover the insects and let it harden.


After about 30 minutes (we went to work on another project while this one cooled), we used a plastic knife to loosen the edges of the soap, and popped our new fossils out of the mold.




Verdict: Success!  However, I think next time I may try using a candle warmer or small hotplate to melt the soap instead of the microwave and see if that cuts down on the bubbles in the soap.  (We also discovered that dollar store glycerine soap smells like someone poured an entire bottle of cheap men’s cologne into the mix.)