In this unit, students develop an understanding of how animals and their environments have changed through time. Fossils provide a window into the animals and habitats of the past. Analyzing the traits of animals that are alive today and comparing them to fossils, provides evidence of how these ancient organisms and environments of the past may have appeared.
This summative assessment is a combination of short response and fill-in-the-blank questions
intended to be administered at the end of this unit. It should take about 25 minutes for a
student to complete.
THIS LESSON WAS REVISED ON JULY 1, 2019. Here is a link to the previous version.
In this lesson, students explore the idea that the rock under our feet sometimes contains fossils, and investigate how these fossils reveal changes in habitat through time. In the activity, Fossil Dig, students use paper to create a model fossil dig. They identify traits of fossils to determine what the habitat looked like when these organisms were alive. Then they use this information to figure out where some Mystery Fossils belong in their fossil dig.
THIS LESSON WAS REVISED ON JUNE 1, 2023. Here is a link to the previous version.
In this lesson, students analyze data from dinosaur fossils in order to provide evidence about the appearance and behavior of those dinosaurs when they were living. In the activity, Dinosaur Detectives, students compare the traits of dinosaur fossils with the traits of modern animals in order to help a paleoartist draw a dinosaur as accurately as possible.
We suggest students work in pairs. Homeschool students can work on their own.
Prepare Extra Evidence Bone Cards
Extra Evidence Bone Cards will print two per page so you will need to prep these cards by cutting along the thick black line in the middle of the page. Each pair of students will need a 1/2 sheet for the activity.
Wait to distribute these cards until Step 16 of the activity.
This activity involves students annotating illustrations of animal bones. Students are asked to write observations and circle patterns on their Animal Bone Cards. Prior to beginning the activity, it may be helpful to have a discussion about how circling similarities and writing notes on diagrams can be a useful way to compare and contrast multiple images.
THIS LESSON WAS REVISED ON AUGUST 21, 2019. Here is a link to the previous version.
In this lesson, students will learn about how fossil dinosaur tracks reveal how quickly a dinosaur was running. In the activity, Outrunning CeeLo, students figure out if they could have won a race with a dinosaur that was just their size. To determine the winner, students will compare the length of their running steps with the dinosaur’s steps.
You will need an area where your students can run for eight steps. Ideally the area will be at least 55 feet (about 17 meters) long. That’s about ⅔ the length of a high school basketball court.
Mark the starting line for the race with masking tape. Establish a line to follow or a destination point to keep everyone running in the same direction.
Check Your Materials
If you’re doing the activity on a gymnasium floor, we suggest students use Post-Its for marking their steps. Test to make sure Post-Its will stick to the surface where you are racing. If your students will be running in the playground, chalk might be a better choice for marking their steps.
Plan For the Race
Each student will run eight steps as fast as they can. Their partner will mark where their eighth step lands.
We recommend that no more than four students run at the same time. If too many students run at the same time, it can be confusing for the markers. Students who are not running or marking can cheer on the runners!
Make the Dinosaur Step Measuring Strings
After the students run, they will measure how far their dinosaur would have run in eight steps using a Dinosaur Step measuring string. There are four dinosaurs, each with a different leg length.
Before class, make the Dinosaur Step measuring strings. Find the black circle on the side of each Dinosaur Footprint printout. Fold two layers of clear tape over the spot to reinforce it. Then use your hole punch to punch a hole where marked. This is where you will tie the string.
Use your yardstick to measure string and cut the following lengths:
68 inches (173 cm) for VeeLo (Velociraptor)
68 inches (173 cm) for SanJuan (Sanjuansaurus)
78 inches (198 cm) for DeeNo (Deinonychus)
88 inches (224 cm) for CeeLo (Coelophysis)
Now you’ll connect the footprints with the strings: thread the correct string length through each hole on the matching dinosaur footprints and tie it on with a knot. Make sure that when the string is pulled straight, the footprints are the correct distance apart. (Distance is shown on the footprint.)
Write each dinosaur’s nickname on a Post-It and stick it to the page where marked (the nicknames are VeeLo, SanJuan, DeeNo, and CeeLo).
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