Your self-led ‘Rocks and Fossils’ visit

Great news: we expect  our Natural History galleries, Vivarium, and Fossils galleries to remain open throughout our redevelopment 2018-21. (The Minerals and Ancient History galleries are now closed.)  Book your self-led visit now to bring your class to Manchester Museum. Don’t forget to check out the FAQs too!

We have lots of ideas and suggestions below to support your self-led visit, as well as the option to discuss your plans by email, telephone or on a pre-visit with our Primary Learning Coordinator.


On-gallery activity ideas for your self-led visit

Younger children

Our Explorer Sacks provide stories, poems, looking tools, toys and puppets to help you explore the animals and dinosaurs in Manchester Museum with younger children. Please book in advance to reserve them for your group.

We’ve put together a handy suggested timetable for a dinosaur-themed visit for Key Stage 1. If you plan to use this, please refer to it in your booking.

Rocks and Fossils

I am not a dinosaur!

What makes a dinosaur a dinosaur? Dinosaurs were all very different. Some were big, others were small, some ate meat, others ate plants. Use this resource to address common misconceptions by learning from bones and fossils across the Museum.

Comparing Creatures

Help younger children develop closer observation skills and link your Fossils topic to adaption/classification/variety of life by comparing creatures across other museum galleries to Stan the T Rex. 

The Earth Over Time

Use this short teaching activity in the Fossils Gallery as an introduction to geological time.

Our Fossils Gallery is arranged chronologically as a timeline. After dividing your class into groups, assign each group a different time period (e.g. Precambrian, Cretaceous, Jurassic, etc.) Have the students find the corresponding alcove for each time period.

What kinds of creatures were alive during this time? Were they land dwelling? Sea dwelling? Big? Small? Did they have skeletons or shells? How did they move? You can ask students to present their findings back to you, or draw what you imagine the landscape of that time period would look like. Maybe they could decide which, if any, landscape would be good for humans to live in?

Evolution Role Play

Follow-up the activity above with a role play of how the earth changed over time. Put students into groups with some assuming the roles of different creatures and a narrator to explain the passage of time.  Ask the narrator to explain the transition of creatures from sea to land while the other students act out the changes.

Creating Fossils

Not all parts of every living thing are formed into a fossil. In addition to special conditions, only certain parts of plants and animals can turn into fossils. Have your students look at the models of full animals in the galleries (either in the Fossils Gallery or even the Natural History Gallery – our modern animals may be fossilized someday too!). Compare these models to the fossils in the Fossils gallery – what parts are left behind? What would the fossils of the models look like? Which parts would be fossilized – which parts would disappear?

Palaeontologist Role Play

Finding fossils and piecing together the parts of evolution is very exciting! Put students in groups and ask them to act out making a palaeontological discovery. The group will need a palaeontologist who will need to mime using the appropriate tools to dig up fossils (which can be played by other group members) and a narrator to explain what is happening in the scene. You can draw inspiration from different palaeontologists described around the gallery – for example, how did Stan Sacrison come to make the 1987 discovery of the T-Rex fossil (named Stan after Stan Sacrison) displayed in the gallery? What were the conditions like? What tools do students think he used?  (Note: the full story of Stan’s discovery can be found here –

Fossils Scavenger Hunt

Offer students a list of prehistoric creatures and ask them to find their fossils in the gallery. Can they find a fossil of creature who lived in the sea? On land? One that had 4 legs? One that had flippers? One that could fly? For older students, you can split them into groups and ask each group to make a scavenger hunt for one of the other groups – so first they would need to look around the gallery and find creatures that catch their eye, and create a hint to help another group find them.

Scarier than Stan?

Discuss as a group why Stan the T Rex is such a well-adapted killing machine! (You might think about sharp teeth and claws, long legs, powerful jaws, etc.)

Can children ‘collect’ adaptations from different fossils to ‘build’ a creature that’s scarier than Stan? Children could work in groups then vote on whose is the more fearsome creature. (Don’t forget to discuss at the end the difference between this creative activity and how evolution actually works!)

Have you tried any of these ideas? Do you have any other suggestions? Comment below!

Remember to book your visit!