Fossils and Paleontology
activity exercisesuggested grade levels: 7-12

view Idaho achievement standards for this lesson

Fossils are the remains or evidence of ancient plants and animals that have been preserved in the crust of the earth. Paleontology is the study of animal and plant remains. The fossil record generally goes from simple life forms to complex forms of life. By doing this activity, students will learn how paleontologists use fossils to learn about ancient life.

1. Students will become familiar with the paleontology and fossil portions Digital Atlas of Idaho.
2. Students will be able to predict the diet and habitat of an animal based on the structural design of the animal.
3. Students will learn to solve problems.

Cardboard boxes or jars with a small hole in the top (so students can reach in).
Paper, plastic, or wooden models of animals cut up into little pieces. Pictures of animals can even be cut out of a magazine.

*Model should be detailed enough so students can observe the teeth, fins, claws, etc.

1. Use the Digital Atlas. To get there: Click on Atlas Home, Geology, and then Fossils.
2. Have students read the section on Introduction to Fossils and answer the following as a class discussion:
   1. What must occur in order for a life form to be preserved as a fossil?
   2. What is the relationship between the age of rock and fossil type?
3. Have your students break up into groups of three or four members and give each group a box with a cut up model of an animal inside. (Animal models should be cut into at least 15 different pieces). Students should not be familiar with these models.
4. Have a member from each group gather 3 pieces of the model at a time from the box. Be sure the student cannot see the pieces he/she is choosing.
5. Every time pieces are gathered, have your students try to answer the following questions: (These questions can be written on the blackboard or put on an overhead projector)
   1. What does your animal eat?
   2. Does it live on land or water?
   3. What does this animal look like?
   4. How does the animal fit together?
   5. What is the name of this animal?
   6. What types of information did you base these answers on?
6. Keep repeating steps four and five until students can answer all questions.
7. Depending on time available, have students put pieces back in and switch with another group that has a different animal. This activity can be turned into a game by offering the first group to answer all questions correctly a prize.

Handouts/Activity links:
These are links to accress the handouts and printable materials.

Related Lesson Topics:
Geology: Geology Topics

Lesson plan by James Scannell and Stefan Sommer, 2001
Idaho Achievement Standards (as of 7/2001) met by completing this activity: