Have you ever seen a fossil? If so, what did it look like? What do you think the organism was before it became a fossil?
If you were a fossil preparator, which part of the job do you think would be most exciting-finding fossils in the field or discovering their secrets in the lab? Why?
According to the article, living material buried in ocean sediment might get totally replaced with minerals. But living material in a peat bog might survive for thousands of years nearly unchanged. Why do you think that is?
According to the article, fossil preparators must piece together fossilized bits of an organism like a puzzle. What kinds of sources do you think they use to figure out what the organism should look like?
- As a class, watch the Smithsonian Science How webcast, "Inside the Smithsonian's Fossil Prep Lab." Instruct students to take notes as they watch to record important ideas and interesting details.
- Divide the class into pairs or small groups. Encourage students to make a list of the most important things they learned as they share and compare their notes.
- Using their notes as a guideline, instruct partners or groups to write a brief essay about fossils. Challenge them to describe what a fossil is, explain how they are collected and preserved so people can study them and identify things people have learned from studying fossils. If you like, extend the activity by having students create their own fossil replicas.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Bones contain evidence of how early humans lived, died and interacted with other organisms. Invite students to visit this interactive exhibit from the National Museum of Natural History to explore important clues scientists can find on bones.
The FossiLab is a real laboratory located on the second floor of the National Museum of Natural History. Visit the FossiLab’s site to learn about current projects, read past posts, learn about fossil preparation and read the answers to frequently asked questions about fossils.
Jude Sparks was hiking in the desert when he tripped over the ancient creature’s skull. Read this Smithsonian article to learn all about his exciting discovery.
Do you know how whales and other marine mammals evolved? Use these resources from the National Museum of Natural History to teach students how scientists use fossils as clues to unlock the mysteries of whale evolution.
The last dinosaurs roamed what is now the Western Interior of North America 66 million years ago. Visit this Smithsonian site to explore how scientists’ findings help people understand America’s last dinosaurs, their lives, and their ultimate demise.
How do scientists use plant fossils as climate indicators? Use these resources from the National Museum of Natural History to help students learn how to interpret past ecosystem changes, including global warming, through fossil leaves.