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PK - 3
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  1. Paleontologists and Paleontology Lesson Plan
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Instructional Materials/Resources:

  • Digging Up Dinosaurs, by Aliki.  Harper & Row, Publishers: New York, 1988.  (Find out how teams of experts work together to dig dinosaur fossils out of the ground, and put together skeletons that look like the dinosaurs that lived millions of years ago.)
  • Pictures of paleontologists at work.
  • Blank KWL chart
  • Marker (to fill in KWL chart)
  • Fossil samples (if available)
  • Balls of clay (one per student)
  • Pieces of 6"x2" tag board (one per student)
  • Objects to imprint in the clay (shells, rocks, twigs, leaves, etc.)
  • Paper and pencils
  • Plaster of Paris
  • A container and wooden spoon to mix the plaster
  • Containers of hardened plaster of Paris with ‘fossilized’ chicken bones (one container per group)
  • Dull instruments for the students to use to dig for the fossilized bones


As a result of this activity, the students will be able to:

  • give three examples of tools that a paleontologist might use.
  • demonstrate how a paleontologist might use tools to uncover a fossil.
  • explain, through writing, how they uncovered their own fossils.
  • explain what a fossil is and give an example how we use fossils to learn about the past.
  • use scientific knowledge to ask questions and make observations.


Resource Instructions


DAY 1:

  1. The word “paleontologist” will be written on the board and a sign "paleontologists at work" will be placed on the activity table.  Pictures will be shown of a paleontologist at work.  Students will be asked who they think a paleontologist is and what he does.  The responses will be compiled in a web at the front of the classroom.
  2. Next, read Digging Up Dinosaurs, by Aliki.  Tell the students to listen closely to the story and listen to the different tools a paleontologist might use.  The students should remember three examples of tools that a paleontologist might use, and will write the examples on a piece of notebook paper and turn it in.
  3. Samples of fossils will be passed out for students to examine.  Students will be asked to discuss, within their work groups, what fossils are and how they think the fossils were made, as well as why paleontologists use them as keys to our past. The information will be shared with the class and posted on a KWL chart. 
  4. Discuss the role of a paleontologist.  Ask the class to give examples of how a paleontologist might work, where they might work, and why.  Explain that paleontologists are scientists who studies ancient living things, like dinosaurs.  Paleontologists can only guess what dinosaurs looked like, what they ate, where they lived, and how they died.  Paleontology is packed with mysteries about living things such as plants and animals that lived thousands, millions, and billions of years before humans existed.  To solve these mysteries, paleontologists use fossils.


So what are fossils?  Fossils are the remains or traces of ancient life that are usually buried in rocks.  They’re almost like the leftovers of life from long ago.  (Pass around examples)  Examples include bones, teeth, shells, impressions of leaves, nests, and even footprints.  If a paleontologist discovered a fossil, how do you think they would use that fossil to learn about history?  (Allow time for discussion and input)  A fossil to a paleontologist is almost like crime evidence would be for a police officer.  This evidence, or the fossil, helps the paleontologist reveal what our planet was like long ago.  Fossils show how animals changed over time, and how they are related to one another.  How do you think a paleontologist figures out what colors dinosaurs were or what they sounded like?  (Allow time for response).  Fossils help paleontologists study what ancient living things, like dinosaurs, looked like, but they keep us guessing about their colors, sounds, and most of their behavior.  Many fossils of living things will never be found, because they may be buried too deep in the earth, or they may be in parts of the world where no one is digging.  Fossils are like pieces to a big jigsaw puzzle, and paleontologists work hard to find the missing pieces in order to put that jigsaw puzzle together. 

  1. Each student will be given a ball of clay and a strip of tag board 6"x2" (stapled into a circle).  The students will roll the clay out to a thickness of not less than 1 inch.  Next, the student will insert the paper ring so that it forms a seal.  The student will select an object he wishes to make into a fossil and press it into the clay.  When the student carefully removes the object, an imprint is left.  At this time the students can review how this might have happened in nature. 
  2. After reviewing their chart on fossils, the children may become paleontologists and "discover" their fossils by removing the circle of paper and clay. They may have the next 5 minutes to share them with their classmates.  They will be placed on the activity table until dismissal so the students can examine them during their spare time.
  3. Next, the students can write stories about how they ‘discovered’ their fossils.  Students should work on sequencing and proper sentence structure.  Students should have at least four sentences written about their discovery to hand in.  Whatever isn’t finished in class should be sent home and finished for class the next day.


DAY 2:

  1.  Review the KWL chart about fossils and paleontologists.  Explain to the students that they will once again be paleontologists for the day and will be put on a mission to discover long lost fossils (buried chicken bones).  Demonstrate how to properly and carefully use the utensils as a paleontologist would.  (Each group table should have a small container of hardened plaster of Paris with ‘undiscovered’ chicken bones throughout.  See handout for instructions on putting together the fossil sites.  Students will be given dull instruments, like wooden toy hammers, tweezers, paintbrushes, etc, to dig for the fossilized bones.)
  2. After students have successfully discovered their chicken bones, discuss with the students why paleontologists would want or need to dig for real fossils.
  3. Ask the students questions such as:
    1. What was surprising about excavating the bones?
    2. What strategies did you find worked well for removing the plaster?
    3. How would you have worked differently if you had no idea what was buried inside?
    4. Discuss other tasks a paleontologist might have besides digging bones (taking notes, taking pictures, giving speeches, etc).




  • Students will be able to verbally provide the definition of a fossil and a paleontologist.
  • Students will write three examples of tools that a paleontologist might use on a piece of notebook paper.
  • Through class discussion, the teacher will take note whether the students participated in filling out the web and/or KWL chart using a three-point system.  One point for little participation, two points for some, and three for several contributions.
  • Students will write a four-sentence story about their fossil discovery, with 85% accuracy for proper sentence structure.

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