Fun With Fossils

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SWBAT build upon prior knowledge to understand how fossils are formed.

Big Idea

Students examine several fossil samples as they analyze different ways these fossils formed using both real samples and an interactive web page.

Setting the Tone

25 minutes

Set Up: I spent time setting up the lab the day before using 6 different fossils. The Stations & Questions Sheet was cut apart and glued on large note cards and placed by each fossil. I was sure to include samples of leaf fossils, trilobites, sharks teeth, fossils of insects and petrified wood to give them a variety of fossils to explore.

Using what they already know  about fossils will be the focus on the first part of today's lab. But before we began, I wanted to arm them with a little more knowledge so they could grasp the idea of how we can tell that layers of rock show us how the earth has changed by its revelation of fossils. Before we went into the lab, I had my students watch this film and take notes in their journals to add to their knowledge about prehistory.

We stopped at this point to discuss what we never knew before. The idea that cockroaches are so old really freaked them out! One student asked, "Why a cock roach, of all gross things, would be on the planet so long?!"

I told them that we would finished the rest of the film tomorrow, because it was time to get in the lab and work on examining real fossils. I told them they would recognize some from their classroom dig!

Touring the Lab

10 minutes
Before beginning the lab, I introduced students to the Station Worksheet Grid( copy back to back) and what they could expect during the time they spent researching and understanding fossils further. Afterward, I asked students to come into the lab with their lab sheets and a pencil. I asked them to line up and walk around the room as I explained that each station was labeled 1-6. These stations would coincide with their lab sheet.

I stopped them and asked them to have a seat in a desk to listen to what I had to say. I told them to number their lab sheet 1-6. I explained how the boxes would be used to record their findings, answer the questions on the cards and be a place for their drawings. I explained that using this sheet was much easier than trying to put this all in their notebook. However, using their notebook for looking up facts or any other resources would be fine.

I asked them if they had any questions about this portion of the lab.

Students were ready to go to work. They partnered up and began working on their lab.

Inquiry, Exploration, & Inference

30 minutes

Students were anxious to get going! I let them partner with a person of their choice since this group does that very well. I encouraged them to visit stations and spread out as they looked at the six samples I had set on counters around the room. I needed to explain the station again to one group who were confused about how to use their worksheet. The petrified wood was an excellent opportunity to explain the permineralization process to students who were in awe that it looked like a piece of wood. This concept that minerals seep into once living material is so hard for them to understand!

I roved the class and enjoyed watching one student sketching the leaf fossil. This process of collaboration between partners made this a rich section of their first part of the lab. It truly took about 30 minutes to complete 6 stations because drawings were so detailed and they carefully discussed the questions presented on the cards.


5 minutes

Just to quickly assess if students had finished each station, I stopped them to take a tally finding that the majority had finished and two were simply crossing their t's and dotting their i's. It worked out well! I asked students to share their favorite fossil. It was a toss up between the shark tooth and the trilobite.

I explained that if anyone needed to look again, or add to their work, we would be continuing the lab tomorrow with more activities.