Fossils and Dinosaurs

Contributor
AAAS ScienceNetLinks
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Lesson/Lesson Plan
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

This lesson focuses on what we have learned and what we can learn from fossils about the organisms and the environments in which they lived. Initially, students investigate the story of Sue, the famous T. Rex on display at the Field Museum in Chicago. Then they look at what we know about a living organism (horses), explore what we know about an extinct organism (Stegosaurus) and how we know it. Students practice what they learned via an engaging task in which they are paleontologists piecing together the story of a dinosaur based on the fossil evidence.

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Grade 3
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

3-LS4-1 Analyze and interpret data from fossils to provide evidence of the organisms and the environments in which they lived long ago.

Clarification Statement: Examples of data could include type, size, and distributions of fossil organisms. Examples of fossils and environments could include marine fossils found on dry land, tropical plant fossils found in Arctic areas, and fossils of extinct organisms.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include identification of specific fossils or present plants and animals. Assessment is limited to major fossil types and relative ages.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students analyze and compare what we know about living organisms (and how we know it) with how we learn about organisms that lived long ago from fossil evidence. The examples used in the lesson are the horse, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and the Stegosaurus, though teachers could use many other types of living and extinct organisms as additional examples.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students discuss how we know about living organisms (direct observations) vs. what we think we know about past organisms (using fossil evidence to make inferences or claims). The lesson does not directly refer to making claims based on evidence, but the teacher could emphasize these terms, exploring their meaning and modifying the lesson to explicitly include them. Teachers should not miss the opportunity to investigate how evidence includes measurements and patterns in collected data (specifically the measurements of the T. Rex's forearms in comparison to the rest of the body suggests that they were useless).

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students explore how fossil evidence about the T. Rex and the Stegosaurus was used to make claims about those organisms (how they looked, what they ate, how they moved, etc.). The teacher could also ask: What do you think this evidence indicates about the environments where these organisms lived? Students could describe the environments in which they think the organisms lived (individually or in small groups) and then share their ideas in a class discussion that highlights making claims based on evidence.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The lesson focuses on how the form of an organism's structure (e.g., shape/number of teeth, size of bones, etc.) provides evidence on what the organism was like. It is recommended that the teacher explicitly explore the relationship between form and function with students and how it is the basis of inference toward what we think we know about organisms that lived long ago. Consider constructing a chart with students illustrating the relationship between form and function of observable, present day organisms (such as the horse) and what we think we know about organisms from fossils.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The resource aligns strongly to the performance expectation and disciplinary core idea because students actually analyze and interpret data from fossils in the lesson and the performance assessment. The practices and crosscutting concepts are implicit, and can be easily incorporated by the teacher (as noted in the Tips above).

  • Instructional Supports: This resource engages students in a meaningful scenario that reflects the practice of experienced paleontologists in the real world. However, specific instructional supports for all learners are not included (modified worksheets, list of academic language, etc.) The BrainPop resource referenced in this resource is available through paid subscription only.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: An engaging authentic performance assessment is outlined in this resource, though no rubric or guidance for interpreting student performance is provided. It is recommended the lesson begin with a formative assessment such as: What do you think scientists can learn from fossils about organisms that lived long ago? so the teacher may use student responses to inform instruction moving forward.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The American Museum of Natural History's "OLogy" kid science website is linked to through this resource and contains many resources that will engage students and deepen the learning around fossils and paleontology (among other subjects). The link to the Field Museum's website about Sue the T. Rex provides background knowledge is not specifically designed for elementary age children.