Modeling a Trace Fossil

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Create a model of a trace fossil then infer what created the fossil by examining the clues.

Big Idea

Scientists use clues from trace fossils to infer what organisms were like millions of years ago.


1 minutes

Warm up

5 minutes

The guiding question for this lesson was "How do trace fossils give us a glimpse of the past?".  We looked at several pictures of trace fossils and then they discussed their ideas using a think-pair-share strategy.

Guided practice

15 minutes

I created a PowerPoint for this lesson,Trace Fossil Activity, to help guide the investigation and to help me touch upon the different learning styles in my classroom. Before creating the trace fossils, I wanted my students to make the connection to the fact that trace fossils are really just imprints left by organisms from long ago. Each student made an imprint of their thumb in a ball of clay. They observed, drew, and wrote about their imprint and then traded theirs with a partner. This activity helped lay the foundation for the next part of the investigation.


20 minutes

I believe that by having my students create trace fossils of a toy and then move to the next group and have to use their powers of observation in order to deduce what made those imprints in the clay, helped my students reach a better understanding of how challenging it is for paleontologists when they find trace fossils. I created an organizer, TRACE FOSSIL Focus Page, to help them document what they were observing. Unbeknownst to my students,  I gave some of the groups the same toy, and yet some of them did not make the connection that it was the same toy they had just used because the groups did not choose the same section to create their trace fossil. I wanted them to get a sense that sometimes paleontologists will find different traces of the same organism and it's up to them to make the connection.

Class Discussion/Wrap Up

10 minutes

For me, the wrap up at the end of the lesson is the most important part of the lesson. This is where my students  can go back to the essential question, and really try to make those connections to the "why' we do these investigations. My students got a better understanding of how fossils are difficult to interpret and that the more clues we have the more informed our conclusions will be.