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Museum at Home: Paleo Cookie Dissection

Paleontology Assistant Preparator Meghan Newman works with fossils in the museum's paleo prep labs. She works to clean and preserve fossils. Fossils are evidence of ancient life and include shells, animal footprints, and dinosaur bones. Most of the fossils Meghan works with are real dinosaur bones!

When scientists find fossils, they are in the ground and surrounded by matrix. Matrix is the rock around a fossil. It can vary from limestone, which is very hard, to mudstone, which is more like dried mud. Scientists use tools to carefully remove the matrix so they can see and study the fossilized bone.

Paleo Cookie Dissection for Museum at Home with The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

This Paleo Cookie Dissection activity lets you try your hand at removing the matrix—a cookie—from a fossil—a chocolate chip. Just like cookies, the matrix Meghan and other preparators work on can be softer or harder. The fossils can be big or small, just like the chocolate chips. The important thing is to work carefully so you can safely uncover the fossil.


  • A cookie that contains chocolate candy, chocolate chips, fruit, or raisins
  • Digging tool(s)—toothpick, pencil, skewer
  • Plate


With your tool in hand, carefully and slowly remove the cookie from the candy. Take your time. How much of the matrix are you able to remove? Try different types of cookies and different types of tools. What did you discover?

Cookies and T. rex cookie jar for Museum at Home with The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Share your discoveries by using the hashtag #TCMatHome on social media!