Fossils of the United States - Explore by State and Time Period

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Students will use a database to collect examples of fossils that can be found in the state they chose to research. They will record the type, the era, and start to draw conclusions about possible environments.

Big Idea

Learning what fossils can be found in different states gives us information about the past environment.

Explore - Finding Fossils by State

60 minutes

Students will choose a state and explore five fossils from that state.  Their notes for each fossil will include:

  1. the name of the fossil
  2. the time period in which the animal or plant lived
  3. an image
  4. a few details about the plant or animal
  5. a statement about how the fossil provides information about past climates or an example of how some living things adapt and survive and others do not.

 This took my students several days to complete. 

The steps for using the website to conduct the initial research are described in the following video clips.



There will be many locations within a state that do not have fossils.  There are many reasons for this.  One reason is that only sedimentary rocks contain fossils.  Metamorphic and igneous rocks do not.

Then I take students through an example of how to conduct the basic research.  I used Wyoming as my example state.  I started with the oldest rocks, and in Wyoming many of these rock layers either are not present in the state or do not contain fossils.  I explain how to handle that lack of information:

Then I explain how to take notes when a time period is encountered in which there were fossils: