Begin the lesson by reviewing fossils. Discuss how fossils are made and the different types of fossils. Transition into a lecture/discussion on relief sculpture relating the history and usage of relief sculpture. Identify the differences between bas, high and sunken relief. Introduce the idea of modern day fossils by showing students the artwork of Christopher Locke. Locke creates fossils of outdated modern technologies such as floppy disks, old cell phones, and boom boxes. Discuss with students how technology changes so rapidly that even recent technologies of a decade ago can seem as ancient as dinosaur bones.
After discussing these ideas, ask students about the possibilities for fossils that they can make. The two general types they will probably suggest are ancient and modern. If choosing ancient fossils, students can consider the geologic time scale which includes periods of time when organisms evolved, including the Jurassic period, Devonian period, Cretaceous period, etc. If choosing modern fossils, have students think about their possessions and consider what they might leave behind for a future generation to discover. Encourage students to think and investigate about what types of materials could be fossilized.
Using their sketchbook or a piece of paper, have students brainstorm ideas for their fossils. Allow students access to resources such as books, handouts, or the Internet to help them plan and inform their artwork. Especially for ancient fossils, students should have the opportunity to discover the variety of ancient organisms.
Students will need to be shown some techniques in preparing and carving the drywall to create their fossils. Explain to students the structure of the drywall; that there is plaster sandwiched on either side by paper. One side of the paper needs to be removed to access the plaster to carve. Using the spray bottle, moisten one side of paper. Begin peeling off the paper. Once all the wet layers of the paper are removed, spray again and continue to remove the paper. Repeat until all the paper is removed.
Once the paper is removed, a pencil can be used to draw the fossil onto the plaster. Once the drawing is complete, use the spray bottle to dampen the plaster. Carve away the large areas around the drawing first with the craft stick. This should result in a block shape of the fossil. Carve about halfway through the plaster. Carving too deep can result in cracking. Getting the plaster too wet can also result in cracking. Once the large areas are carved away, use the skewer and tooth picks to create details in the fossil. Carving details can easily be done even after the plaster has dried out for subsequent classes.
A good measure for students in the quality and craftsmanship of their work is having them see if other students can identify their fossil. The final step is to paint the fossil. Especially for the modern fossils, help students realize that a fossil is usually made of compressed stone and not the original material. Thus the color for their fossil should be neutral colors like browns and grays.