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Hi.  This fall I will be teaching a paleontology class for 5th and 6th graders. We will meet once a week for 55 minutes. My plan is to teach up front for about ten minutes and then for the remainder of the class to be hands on activities. I have come up with some ideas, but would love some feedback on them and any other ideas that you all might have. The first session will be an introduction to paleontology, possibly including fieldwork methods, fossil prep, ichnology and trace fossils, adaptations, cladistics, plate tectonics, etc, while the second session will be more focused on the actual organisms that we find in the fossil record and how they changed through time.  The second session will build a fossil kit as the session progresses to take home at the end.


Here are the topics I have come up with so far:

1. What makes a dinosaur a dinosaur, addressing the dinosaur-bird connection

2. Cladistics- using either coins or candy or both

3. Fossils and sedimentary layers, layer cake stratigraphy (not sure about using food, depends on allergies) or could use colored sand and plastic cups with animal shaped beads to be the fossils

4. Dinosaurs and speed activity, have students learn to calculate their own speed over a given distance and apply that to dinosaur foot impressions

5. Plate tectonics and fossils, have the kids reconstruct the earth 220 million years ago based on fossils found on the different puzzle pieces that the land masses have been broken up into

6. Dinosaur teeth, learning the difference between meat-eaters and plant-eaters and discuss the size of dino teeth

7. Chocolate chip cookie excavation exercise, to teach how difficult fossils can be to extract from matrix and to prepare for study

8. Activity using a pant tray covered in dirt, rocks, and some sand. Sprinkle glitter (glitter= dead animal bones) over the dirt. Then gentle rain water out of a paper cup over your pretend hillside and watch the dirt absorb the water. There is a greater chance the glitter bones will be make it into the fossil record vs. the desert. Put plastic wrap over your hillside to simulate the desert. Sprinkle on your glitter and rain over it...glitter washes away into the arroyo, bones are separated, lost, broken, etc.... --> trying to develop into a way of showing how fossils end up getting in to the fossil record more easily in a forest environment vs. a desert environment. Still only just the beginning of an idea.



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Sounds like a great plan!

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We do a fun mineralization activity that teaches kids the role the water cycle plays in creating fossils. All you need is wax paper, some yellow sponges, small spray bottles or eye droppers, water and food coloring. We do that with 5th graders.

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