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Portable Collections Program


Table of Contents

Checklist: What’s in the Case? –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1

Information for the Teacher: –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 3
How to Handle and Look At Museum Specimens An Introduction to Fossils Information About the Specimens in the Case

Activities to Do with Your Students: –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 11
1 Introductory Activity: Paleo Puzzle 2 Examining and Classifying Fossils 3 Make a Fossil Cast 4 Footprint Forensics 5 Create A 3-D Geologic Time Model 6 Additional Activities and Curricular Connections

Resources and Reference Materials: –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 24
Vocabulary Words Connections with New York State Learning Standards Corresponding Field Trips Bibliography and Web Resources


What’s in the Case?

Ammonites (2) #0996, 0997

Trilobites (2) #0731, 0995

Brachiopods (3) #0052, 0946

Tabulate coral #658

Fossil fish #1380

Pelecypod #0978

Gastropod #0042

Echinoderm #0538

Shark tooth #1283

Baculite #0984, 0996, 0997

Ichthyosaurus vertebra #1278

Eurypterid #1117

Dinosaur footprint #1343

Gastrolith #1264

Oreodont jaw section #1329


■ CHECKLIST: WHAT’S IN THE CASE? ■ What’s in the Case? Specimens Graveyard #0658 Insect in amber #0999 Fern leaf #0908 Petrified wood #1787 Tools & Resources Geologic Time Chart (laminated poster) from Brooklyn Children’s Museum Eyewitness: Fossil by Paul D. Taylor Fossils Tell of Long Ago by Aliki Brandenberg FOSSILS 2 .

Please follow these guidelines in handling objects in the case: • Students may handle the specimens. and what their observations might tell them. For example: • What do you see in the specimens? Describe their shape. direct sunlight. Encourage your students to carefully examine the fossils and touch them gently. Have them describe the specimen’s shape. and structure. provided we are willing to look at them in detail and think about what those details mean. • Do not shake objects or the plexiglass cases they may be housed in. and keep them secure. color. Ask them questions about what they see. Learning about paleontology by examining fossil specimens is much different from reading about it in a book. • Temperature differences. • Hold larger specimens with two hands. and color. size.■ INFORMATION FOR THE TEACHER ■ Guidelines for Handling Museum Notes about Object-Based Specimens Learning and Inquiry Learning to handle objects from the Museum’s natural history collection with respect can be part of the educational experience of the case. FOSSILS 3 . and water can be very harmful to museum objects. As the conversation begins to grow. Hold them by the solid part of the body or by the strongest area rather than by rims. under your supervision.) • What do you want to know about them? • What else can you see? You can assist this process by encouraging your students to examine individual fossils in detail. edges or protruding parts. and what that might tell them. Specimens have the power to tell us many things. Please keep the objects away from radiators and open windows. and to think about what those details might mean. carefully. (It is important that your students use visual clues based on their observations when giving their answers. you can ask more questions about the specimen: • What does this fossil look like? How does it compare to other specimens in the case? • What kind of fossil is this? How was it preserved? How can you tell? Providing books and Internet access for researching these and other questions encourages students to make discoveries that further their knowledge about fossils. Ask them questions about what they see.

whole bodies preserved by freezing. (There are no examples of frozen fossils in the case. Compression occurs when layers of sediment press so hard on the organic remains that they are flattened. whereas it has only one body. only the general form shows. Trace fossils are more common. and classified. that preserve evidence of the organism’s presence but not the organism itself. The organism died and was buried under successive layers of soil. Freezing. Petrifaction. Sometimes shells. They are usually mammoths and rhinoceroses of the last ice age that fell into pits of ice and were frozen. There are the two types of fossils: body fossils. a topic that has fascinated generations of children (and adults) and continues to inspire movies. At its most extreme. and to introduce its scientific side as well. we have also included connections to other curriculum areas. there were ancient seas full of fish where now there are grassy plains and hills. Molds and casts. Alteration.■ INFORMATION FOR THE TEACHER ■ An Introduction to Fossils To the teacher Millions of years ago.) Compression or carbonization. including the arts and language arts. the plant or animal is reduced to a shiny black carbon film in the form of its original shape. where the organism itself or some part or impression of it was preserved. If this happens very slowly. and even toys. The activities in this teacher guide support exploration into how fossils are made. and trace fossils. discovered. Its hard parts— usually bones or shells—were all that survived decay. Many leaf fossils are the result of carbonization.” and involves replacement of organic material by the mineral silica. • How are fossils created? The methods by which fossils are formed are quite varied and often dramatic. or other remains were trapped in sediment that ▲ FOSSILS 4 . In Wyoming. Wherever possible. Dinosaurs roamed Connecticut and New Jersey. Organisms that froze after death and have not changed are very rare and never very old. Trilobites and ammonites lived in New York City. tree stumps. which means “turning to stone. How do we know all this? Through fossils! Fossils provide us with a record of life on Earth from its earliest times. the microscopic structures of the organism are duplicated. Fossils formed by alteration are called replacement fossils. • • • Simple burial. books. ranging from simple footprints that have hardened into molds to actual. If it happens quickly. is a type of alteration. the world looked very different from how it does now. This is a variation of burial in which the hard parts are dissolved by circulating water and are replaced by minerals. • What is a fossil? A fossil is the remains of an organism (plant or animal) that lived long ago. You can use these fossils to fuel students’ curiosity and enthusiasm about ancient life. Shark and mammal teeth and tusks are good examples of unaltered fossils. The authentic fossil specimens in this Portable Collections case let your students hold in their hands a piece of ancient history. since a single organism will move around and leave lots of evidence over time.

mountains have formed and eroded. They compare the remains of ancient life with present-day plants and animals in order to determine what the ancient creatures were like. and its story has been recorded for us in fossils. Amber is the fossilized sap of ancient pine trees. of years. Coal. groups of plants and animals have appeared. such as dinosaurs. however. They can document the evolution of elephants from pigsized creatures which lived 20 to 40 millions years ago to the giants they are now. The most famous fossils of this type are dinosaur footprints. Coal is a shiny black rock formed from the remains of great trees. although they are different from natural history fossils in that they were made by humans instead of by nature. Most geologic change must be considered in terms of millions. Continents have drifted apart and together. but new discoveries are always possible as paleontologists strive to complete the picture of the past. Amber. Fossils are also important economically. Animals caught in asphalt pits (such as the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles) are fossils. and eggs and nests are other examples of trace fossils. trails. like the one in the case. Tracks. Stone tools and weapons made by ancient peoples are also sometimes called fossils. Through their study of fossils. leaving a cavity known as a natural mold. they are able to identify plants and animals that flourished millions of years ago and to reconstruct the environments they inhabited. have not changed in hundreds of millions of years. Many gaps in our knowledge of earlier life still exist. and borings are impressions left by an organism’s movements. ▲ FOSSILS 5 . but are known today only through fossil remains. but not the organism itself. flourished and disappeared. This is the history of our planet. Fossils indicate that horseshoe crabs and cockroaches. The study of fossils is called paleontology. The earth is still in the midst of many changes that cannot be detected during the relatively short span of our lives. Natural gas may have come from oil that heated up inside the earth or from ancient plants that rotted in swamps. oil. Why are fossils important? Throughout geologic time the earth has been in the process of change. So are animals that were mummified naturally in semi-arid climates. Sometimes it contains fossil insects or other small animals that got trapped in the sticky sap. which is millions of years old. or even billions. Some of the oldest artifacts belonged to hunters and have been found with the bones of extinct animals. glaciers have advanced and retreated. and other plants that thrived in low swamps during the Carboniferous period. The topic of fossil fuels can spark lively discussions of conservation. Eventually the dead organism decayed and dissolved. and natural gas are all examples of fossil fuels. Paleontologists also identify extinct creatures. Oil. It may fill up with other sediments. Fossils enable paleontologists to determine the sequence of change and adaptation as the number of species increased and became more complex. They have been found in many parts of the world. Gastroliths. in which case it becomes a cast. which dominated life millions of years ago. since we are rapidly depleting these non-renewable underground resources in our quest for energy. These changes have drastically altered environmental conditions and all living organisms. Paleontologists study fossils to help us understand the life of the distant past. The history of early humans is based on fossil remains found in many parts of the world. They are evidence of the organism. Other methods. some 150 feet high. is believed to have formed from plant and animals remains. They use their knowledge of living organisms to bring life to fragments of bones and shells millions of years old. burrows. coprolites.■ INFORMATION FOR THE TEACHER ■ An Introduction to Fossils (continued) • • • • hardened.

Other rocks (igneous and metamorphic) are subject to forces that usually destroy fossils. not just fossils) have devised a special time scale. In many places the sedimentary rock is covered with soil or glacial deposits. sand. geologists cannot date individual fossils or rocks in years. were formed at the same time. however. Instead they use a method based on the breakdown of radioactive elements (such as uranium) in the rocks around the fossil. This vast span of time is known as geologic time. measurable rate to form more stable elements. Paleontologists organize expeditions similar to those of archaeologists to dig for fossils in areas known for their scientific significance. The Geological Time Scale poster in the case shows the eras and periods. fossil hunting is restricted to places where the sedimentary rock is exposed. This is called the atomic clock method. Sedimentary rock is formed from pieces (sediments) of mud. Even with this scale. Scientists estimate that the earth is 4-1/2 billion years old and that life began to evolve from a few single-celled organisms at least 3.■ INFORMATION FOR THE TEACHER ■ An Introduction to Fossils (continued) Where are fossils found? The majority of fossils are found in sedimentary rock. or natural disasters that expose layers of earth previously inaccessible to scientists. years. riverbanks. The eras are divided into smaller units called periods. Some fossils of great importance. Geologists (the scientists who study the entire history of the earth. The sediments were produced by the processes that wear down the earth’s surface. They also use index fossils—fossils that are found only in a particular layer of sedimentary rock—to prove that different layers of rock. mining. The materials in sedimentary rock provide ideal conditions for preserving fossils. but in millions of years. Finally they determined that the layers fit into four great divisions called eras. By measuring the rate of the unstable element to the stable element associated with it. have been unearthed by chance during the course of building construction. road cuts and quarries. Remains of organisms are buried in the sediment and lie undisturbed throughout the long process of fossilization. and clay that settle in layers and gradually harden into rock. miles or even continents apart. ❑ Words in boldface have been included in the Vocabulary Words section on page 24. and the relative scale of the eras. Consequently.4 billion years ago. the changing life forms in each. so fossil-bearing rock lies deep beneath the surface. or even centuries. FOSSILS 6 . they estimated how long it took for each layer of sedimentary rock to form. How do we know how old a fossil is? The history of the Earth is told not in months. based on millions of years. These elements have unstable atomic nuclei that break down at a steady. such as cliffs. By studying the rate at which sediments form in bays and basins. they can get an accurate measure of the age of the rock. however.

Another specimen is embedded in rock (called the matrix).■ INFORMATION FOR THE TEACHER ■ Information About the Specimens in the Case AMMONITES Ammonites are extinct marine mollusks similar to the nautilus. These small. they can often determine the age of a layer of rock by looking at the ammonites found within it. since they know when different species of ammonites existed. Ammonites lived from the early Devonian period until the end of the Cretaceous period (about 400 to 65 million years ago). thorax (middle section). Brachiopods are commonly known as lamp shells because many of them are shaped like ancient Roman oil lamps. BRACHIOPODS Brachiopods are small marine invertebrates with two shells that encase the animal’s soft body (like a modern clam). Tabulate corals were confined to the Paleozoic Era. with more than 15. There are about 325 living species and about 12. and tail—which gave the animal its name ("tri" means "three" in Latin). insects. They also evolved into different species quite rapidly. They thrived all over the earth and were easily preserved. ▲ FOSSILS 7 . The colorful. so they are very common fossils. and lobsters). soft-bodied creatures had a hard outer shell divided into chambers. limy skeleton whose durability accounts for the fact that they are well represented in the fossil record. Since fossil brachiopods are so abundant and diverse. A trilobite's body was divided into three parts— the head.000 fossil forms. which spanned millions of years. paleontologists use them as index fossils to determine the age of the rocks in which they are found. They lived from the beginning of the Cambrian period through the end of the Permian period (about 542 to 248 million years ago). They live together in colonies. Trilobites are common and well-known fossils. These two facts combine to make them a very useful index fossil for paleontologists. this fossil fish was buried in an ocean bed located in what is now Wyoming. Billions of their shells accumulated in sea beds and fossilized. FOSSIL FISH Sometime between 36 and 58 million years ago. Brachiopods were a dominant form of life in the oceans for much of the Paleozoic era. TABULATE CORAL TRILOBITES Trilobites are extinct members of the arthropod family (which includes spiders. These small marine animals fed on the mud of the ocean floor. Brachiopods evolved into many different species. Corals are simple aquatic animals lacking advanced organ systems. The backbone and other parts of the skeleton are visible. and members of the largest species grew to more than one foot in diameter.000 species documented in the fossil record. pearly luster of one of the specimens is what remains of the inside of the animal’s shell. The brown color defining the shape of the fish is a thin layer of carbon left as the organic matter decayed. It was preserved in a mud shale matrix. Corals secrete a hard.

This specimen is a sea biscuit that lived during the Carboniferous period. They had streamlined. meaning that the original bone matter dissolved and was replaced by other minerals.■ INFORMATION FOR THE TEACHER ■ Information About the Specimens in the Case (continued) PELECYPOD Pelecypods are marine bivalves that count oysters. squiggly lines are from sutures (the part of the shell where the walls dividing it into chambers connected with the inner surface of the shell wall). Small hairs that covered the body are missing. Since that time sharks evolved into a wide range of shapes and sizes. and most have a spiral-shaped shell. and limbs adapted for use as steering paddles. Although they looked like fish. a large tail fin. This fossil pelecypod is between 13 and 25 million years old. clams. ichthyosaurs evolved from unidentified land reptiles that moved back into the water. Paleontologists use suture patterns to identify different species of baculites. of course. when marine life was especially abundant. It has lost much of its color. this fossil is a piece of a shell belonging to a baculite that lived during the Cretaceous period. can still be found in warmer waters today. Starfish. but the hardy limy substance has changed very little. Sand dollars appeared in the Paleocene and. and sea urchins are echinoderms. ICHTHYOSAURUS VERTEBRA This is an example of an altered fossil. Gastropods have a well-developed head and a muscular foot. The tiny holes that form the petal design on its surface were used for breathing. ▲ FOSSILS 8 . GASTROPOD Gastropods are mollusks. This fossil gastropod dates from the Cretaceous period. The patterns of white. and the original shell material and its interior have been replaced by other minerals. SHARK TOOTH This shark’s tooth is between 25 and 36 million years old. The shell still contains most of its original material. Nothing remains of the animal’s soft body. The rest of the gastropod has been replaced by other minerals. According to the fossil evidence. but the gloss of its shell’s inner layer can still be seen in some places. Today there are over 1100 species of cartilaginous fishes. The outer layers are all original material. Ichthyosaurs (Greek for "fish lizards") were carnivorous marine reptiles that lived from the Triassic to the Cretaceous period. mussels and clams among their living members. BACULITE Collected in South Dakota. Baculites were marine animals related to ammonites. they weren’t. sharks first appeared in the Devonian period (385 million years ago). and other shelled animals. sand dollars. ECHINODERM Echinoderms are marine animals whose bodies are covered with hard plates or spines. fish-like bodies with a long snout. Most of the original material from this shell has been replaced by other minerals. instead. like snails. all of which evolved from the earliest sharks.

Eurypterids were hunters. Since dinosaurs are now extinct. The stones came to rest in a dinosaur's stomach. GASTROLITH Smooth. However. while they were most closely related to the modern sheep. ▲ FOSSILS 9 . Eventually the gastroliths would be worn down to the point where they were too small or too smooth to be useful for grinding. but most were much smaller. DINOSAUR FOOTPRINT This rock contains a footprint left by a Tuberosis dinosaur during the Jurassic period. Eurypterids lived in the Paleozoic era. This specimen shows how their broad. or even inside dinosaur rib cages. they were distantly linked to both pigs and camels! GRAVEYARD “Graveyard” is the term for a conglomeration of fossils. and swallow new ones. This specimen was collected from a rock formation in Connecticut. but have been found on nearly every continent. and crinoids. Oreodonts thrived all over North America from the Eocene (55 million to 37 millions years ago) through the Pliocene (from 5 million to about 1. That is how gastroliths (“stomach stones”) got their name. round pebbles like this one have often been found near dinosaur bones. completed the body. They had a fused head and thorax with two pairs of eyes and six pairs of appendages. It is difficult to explain their appearance in terms of modern animals. the depth and shape of footprints may demonstrate that certain species of dinosaur walked upright or on all four legs.■ INFORMATION FOR THE TEACHER ■ Information About the Specimens in the Case (continued) EURYPTERID Also known as a “sea scorpion. This specimen shows some of those segments. Twelve tapering segments. For example. where it lived in the Silurian period. Then the dinosaurs would get rid of the stones (by either vomiting them up or passing them out in their dung). These animals also have a rather strange family tree. where they pounded food into smaller pieces to help the animal's digestion. They could be as big as six and a half feet long. fossils like this footprint may provide paleontologists with a rare window into dinosaur behavior. usually ending in a spike. feeding on trilobites and cephalopods. This conglomeration of marine fossils includes sponges. so they swallowed large.” a eurypterid is an extinct animal whose closest living relative is the horseshoe crab. Also. The dinosaur stepped in mud. from the Ordovician to the Permian periods. moved. OREODONT JAW SECTION Oreodonts were sheep-sized herbivores (plant eaters).8 million years ago) epochs. all preserved in this one specimen. it is difficult for scientists to know much about how they lived. the distance between two footprints in a set of dinosaur tracks may yield clues about that dinosaur's posture or how fast it could run. and over time the mud turned into red sandstone. some scientists have compared them to small deer with pig-like heads. Some dinosaurs (especially plant-eaters) did not have teeth suitable for grinding up their food. The eurypterid is the state fossil of New York State. Their fossils are relatively rare. rough stones. flat teeth were well adapted for grazing. corals. and behaved.

and as the plant decayed away. Many insects. and even small animals (like frogs or lizards) have been preserved this way. and was exposed when a fossil hunter split the rock open. The original organic material dissolved and was replaced by other minerals (probably a silicate. like quartz). the fern in this specimen would have looked more like a tree than a small plant. FERN LEAF This fern fossil dates from the Carboniferous period. a stone cast was left in its place. They covered the floors of damp forests and swamps all around the globe. But the majority of fern species that existed in the era of this fossil fern are now extinct. that resin (or sap) grew harder and eventually turned into a type of fossil known as However. For millions of years. For the most part. when the wood was buried under sediment. You and your students can learn more about these specimens and other objects from around the world by visiting Collections Central Online at www. Over time. Mineral-rich water flowing through the sediment deposited minerals in the wood’s cells. spiders. It is a mold of the original plant. FOSSILS 10 . the insect inside this piece of amber landed on a tree and got stuck in its sticky resin.brooklynkids. The same chemical processes that turned the fresh resin into fossilized amber also preserved the insect trapped within it. modern ferns look the same as ferns that lived millions of years ago. This process occurred underground. ferns dominated the earth's greenery.■ INFORMATION FOR THE TEACHER ■ Information About the Specimens in the Case (continued) INSECT IN AMBER Millions of years ago. It had a hard trunk and grew to a height of 13 feet! PETRIFIED WOOD This ancient piece of wood has turned to stone after millions of years.

See page 25 for details on how this activity meets New York State Learning Standards.ACTIVITY 1 Introductory Activity: Paleo Puzzle 4 Hand out the Paleo Puzzle worksheet that introduces fossil terms and have the students fill it out. This class discussion is intended to make that knowledge public and shared among the group. Worksheet Answer Key: T R K K T C V X H V Z H S A F U W I A M D E Q R Y A D E MMB M J G O E J N T I I S T T G Y E P I T WK E W S R W I A X R X R C UW X P E M T A L T F U T K T L B A I C T F O V U B E A L T R I O UWC S U H K Z B A J A C H X O L I T H T C R D O R R S U N R B Y Q G A S T R O L I T H R D U A C H Y S W T Y H I V B Y C J P O H E L MQ L I C N E E Z W R Y N T L A U A T R C S L I Z P R U OM S A X P Y G R E I B E T F B J I M N A S C I P I T Y L Y A T O A G K Q M B E Z H L O G O Q I P T R E R U D A D L T R J D J O L R P M A N E Z G C T T R K A J Y N O N O L N J Y M N I S I N P F O Y S Q I L H C R O T E M O U A N X B T Y S Q T E M Y I A D I S L B C C R U P L O I M A C B Y BW O A A D L C E H Z A N O I D V Z I E M P L H Z J C L U E T R B L C N R P N J T O E G F Q I B T I P A R R L N K E Z W L C E L E S O C O J M C U U N Z P C MC U S U V R R OW A F S P O T H E T R H N Y A H N C O I D I D K G A P Identify some of the questions generated by the discussion for students to RESEARCH AND LITERACY EXTENSION: research. 2 Ask the students the Discussion Questions below and any others that you think will stimulate their thinking. Start by asking students what they know about fossils and about life on earth millions of years ago. List their statements on the board or chart paper. Remind them that by asking questions they are helping to define the scope of the topic for the class’s work. or write a short report on their findings. which you may define for students or ask them to look up on their own and/or share. The word puzzle introduces some basic fossil terms. Together the comments create a baseline of information. Discussion Questions: • • • • What is a fossil? What kinds of things can be fossils? Is a fossil a real animal or plant? What parts of an animal might become fossils? Why might some parts become fossils and not others? • What could a fossil be made of? • How old does something have to be to be considered a fossil? • How do we know how old a fossil is? How might a scientist be able to tell? Materials: • Blackboard or chart paper • A small selection of specimens from the case • Copies of Paleo Puzzle worksheet on the next page. They will not have answers to everything. 3 Pass around one or two of the fossils from the case (such as the eurypterid and a gastrolith) without telling the class what they are. GRADES 3–5 FOSSILS 11 . one per student What To Do: 1 Lead a discussion on the topic of fossils. They can share their answers in a subsequent discussion. children tend to have already an assortment of knowledge about fossils. What makes each object a fossil? What kind of fossil do they think it is? Ask each student to come up with a question about one (or both) of the fossils. Grades 3–5 Related Specimens: All Right or wrong. List these in a second column on the board or chart paper. but even paleontologists may not. without comment or contradiction. imagery. or have students work individually or in groups to look the terms up in books or on the Internet. and questions for the whole class to pursue. After they compare their results (the answers are below). you can define the terms for them. It provides a starting place for the next activity.

Paleo Puzzle CIRCLE THE FOLLOWING TERMS: Ammonite Baculite Cast Cenozoic Dinosaur Eurypterid Era Gastrolith Geological Time Mold Paleontology Sedimentary Trace T R K K T C V X H V Z H S A F U W I A M D E Q R Y A D E MMB M J G O E J N T I I S T T G Y E P I T WK E W S R W I A X R X R C UW X P E M T A L T F U T K T L B A I C T F O V U B E A L T R I O UWC S U H K Z B A J A C H X O L I T H T C R D O R R S U N R B Y Q G A S T R O L I T H R D U A C H Y S W T Y H I V B Y C J P O H E L MQ L I C N E E Z W R Y N T L A U A T R C S L I Z P R U OM S A X P Y G R E I B E T F B J I M N A S C I P I T Y L Y A T O A G K Q M B E Z H L O G O Q I P T R E R U D A D L T R J D J O L R P M A N E Z G C T T R K A J Y N O N O L N J Y M N I S I N P F O Y S Q I L H C R O T E M O U A N X B T Y S Q T E M Y I A D I S L B C C R U P L O I M A C B Y BW O A A D L C E H Z A N O I D V Z I E M P L H Z J C L U E T R B L C N R P N J T O E G F Q I B T I P A R R L N K E Z W L C E L E S O C O J M C U U N Z P C MC U S U V R R OW A F S P O T H E T R H N Y A H N C O I D I D K G A P .

It can be done in small groups or as a class. You may want to use the chart paper to make notes about the students’ observations. SCIENCE EXTENSION: GEOLOGIC TIME Using the timeline poster provided. the groups should rotate to a new station. this guide. Materials: • Fossils from the case • Timeline poster from the case • Copies of the “What Can Specimens Tell Me?” chart. Place one or more specimens at each station. 5 Have the students reconvene as a class to discuss their findings. prior to the presentation of the lesson. or other resources about the different types of fossils (how they were made). 2 For small groups. too. Repeat this step as many times as you like. Ask them to pay special attention to the physical properties of each of the specimens.ACTIVITY 2 Examining and Classifying Fossils 4 Have the students fill in their charts as they look at the specimens. 6 When you feel they have gone as far as they can with what they observed. introduce information from your own knowledge. Grades 3–5 Related Specimens: All This activity gives your students a chance to look closely at real fossils and form hypotheses about what these organisms were and how they survived to tell us about the past. See page 25 for details on how this activity meets New York State Learning Standards. Which fossils are the earliest? (There will be a number for which no clear date is possible. looking at the specimens in turn and filling out the chart using an overhead projector or large chart paper. You may want to practice with the class. 3 Distribute the “What Can Specimens Tell Me?” chart and go over it with the students. have students re-sort the fossils according to geologic era and period. a transparency of the chart and an overhead projector • Blackboard OR chart paper for recording group observations Discussion Questions: • How could a living organism (such as a plant or an animal) turn into a rock? What might make that happen? • How are some of the fossils alike or different? • Which fossils give a more complete image of the organism? Why might that be? • Which fossils are the actual organism and which ones are a “print” or impression of it? • Which fossils are the oldest? How might a paleontologist tell? • Why are gastroliths and shark’s teeth considered fossils? What To Do: 1 Depending on the age and interests of your students and the amount of time you would like to spend. Then have students sort the fossils into categories according to how they were made. How do they figure out the dates?) FOSSILS 13 . set the classroom up into stations (make sure there are enough stations that you have only 3–4 students working at each one). using one of the specimens to model the activity. After a few minutes. if you have not already done the Introductory Activity. one per student OR. for a whole class exercise. you can do this activity using a handful of specimens or every specimen in the case. You can point out that paleontologists face this dilemma.

What type of plant or Is the fossil an actual animal created this fossil? plant or animal. What can you tell about the fossil just by looking at the specimen in detail? Use this chart to record what you discover. or a “print” of it? Why do you think so? PREDATORS AND PREY 14 . using a hand lens if necessary.What can specimens tell me? What can you see of the original plant or animal? What color is it? What color and texture is the background of the fossil? Is the rock layered? Use your senses to observe each specimen carefully.

What can specimens tell me? What can you see of the original plant or animal? What color is it? What color and texture is the background of the fossil? Is the rock layered? Use your senses to observe each specimen carefully. or a “print” of it? Why do you think so? PREDATORS AND 15 REPTILES PREY 15 . What can you tell about the fossil just by looking at the specimen in detail? Use this chart to record what you discover. using a hand lens if necessary. What type of plant or Is the fossil an actual animal created this fossil? plant or animal.

using a hand lens if necessary. What can you tell about the fossil just by looking at the specimen in detail? Use this chart to record what you discover. or a “print” of it? Why do you think so? REPTILES 16 .What can specimens tell me? What can you see of the original plant or animal? What color is it? What color and texture is the background of the fossil? Is the rock layered? Use your senses to observe each specimen carefully. What type of plant or Is the fossil an actual animal created this fossil? plant or animal.

What can specimens tell me? What can you see of the original plant or animal? What color is it? What color and texture is the background of the fossil? Is the rock layered? Use your senses to observe each specimen carefully. or a “print” of it? Why do you think so? REPTILES 17 . What type of plant or Is the fossil an actual animal created this fossil? plant or animal. using a hand lens if necessary. What can you tell about the fossil just by looking at the specimen in detail? Use this chart to record what you discover.

5 Mix the plaster of Paris to the consistency of pancake batter. and tell or LITERACY EXTENSION: write the story of how they came across the fossil they just made in the activity above. 3 Give each student a small piece of clay and have him or her pick an object to “fossilize. container and spatula for mixing • Optional: can opener Alternatives for Younger Students: • Have students roll the clay into a ball and press it flat on a cardboard square. leaving a cavity. filling the bottom of the container to not less than one inch in depth. if using oak tag. and remove it. rocks. and clean off the clay. Voila! Everyone now has a “fossil” cast of the object they chose.ACTIVITY 3 Make a Fossil Cast 6 Remove the cast from the cardboard container or tin can (it may be easiest to open the bottom of the can with a can opener and push the cast out).” press it into the clay.” First have them roll the clay into a ball and press the ball flat. Discussion Questions: • How is the toy (or other small object they use to stand for the organism) different from a real specimen after it dies? What happens to an animal after it dies and is buried? • What is the difference between the way you made the mold and the way a fossil mold would be created? (Hint: The fossil mold would be created after the organism was buried and then decayed. What kind of land were they exploring? What adventures did they have getting to where they were digging? How deep did they dig? What tools did they use? What happened afterwards? FOSSILS 18 . have them create a small container by stapling the ends of the oak tag together to make a ring and place it on a cardboard square. and let it harden for at least 24 hours. coins. Pour it into the containers on top of the clay mold. Have students imagine themselves as paleontologists looking for fossils.) • How might a buried fossil mold be exposed so that someone today could discover it? See page 25 for details on how this activity meets New York State Learning Standards. cardboard squares. • Have students make a leaf print art by rubbing a crayon over a piece of paper that has leaves underneath it. All Grades Related Specimens: Brachiopod. shallow containers. leaving a “fossil” mold of the body. eurypterid This is a fun and simple way to demonstrate how some body fossils are made! Materials: • Plastic toy animals. 2 Give each student a can or. 4 Ask students to pick one of the small objects to “fossilize. and a stapler • Modeling clay • Plaster of Paris. baculite. alternatively. What To Do: 1 Introduce the activity by reviewing what a body fossil is and telling the class that they will be creating a “fossil” and making a cast of it. tabulate coral. pelecypod. water. or other objects • Empty tuna cans or similar small. Then have them press one hand into the clay hard enough to make a print. use strips of oak tag cut about 2” wide. Have them hold their prints up to show and talk about how animals and plants millions of years ago printed mud and soft rocks in the same way and left their traces for us to find.

Have they seen movies or TV programs where detectives or scientists find traces of incriminating evidence? Or where skilled hunters have interpreted footprints to track a person or an animal? 3 Explain that paleontologists use evidence to make deductions about what happened millions of years ago. For example. 4 Hand out or project panel 1 of the Footprint Pattern. and that they are going to do the same thing. For example: Someone will probably say the two animals fought. and place it to the right of panel 2. etc. FOSSILS 19 . but there was some reason for both to circle around the same spot. Materials: • Copies of each of the Footprint Patterns. 7 Conclude by asking if the evidence supports any one of the students’ hypotheses in particular. Emphasize that they will get the evidence in stages and at each stage they will be forming a hypothesis about what happened. place it to the right of panel 1. Can they tell anything about the size or nature of the animals that made the footprints? How many were there? Were all the tracks made at the same time? How might the students figure that out if they were paleontologist working in the field? What might have happened? Encourage students to point out what evidence supports their idea. Or perhaps the animals weren’t there at the same time. students examine the evidence and make hypotheses about the story the footprints tell. you can copy each section onto a separate transparency for use with an overheard projector. Alternatively. You will hand out these panels to your students one at a time. but there are other possibilities.ACTIVITY 4 Footprint Forensics 5 Hand out copies of panel 2 (or project it overhead). and repeat the discussion. Now what do the students think happened? What parts of their previous deductions still hold water? What parts do they have to change? Elicit alternative hypotheses. Discussion Questions: • In what directions did the animals move? • Did they change their speed and direction? How can you tell? • Were there trees or bushes that might have kept the animals from seeing each other? • Do we know if they were there at the same time? • How might you know what the climate was like? • What conditions were necessary for the preservation of the footprints? See page 25 for details on how this activity meets New York State Learning Standards. Help them distinguish between what they see and what they infer. they might state that the animals were walking around. What other evidence might shed light on the circumstances and the events that created these footprints? What could a paleontologist learn from this exercise? One lesson should be that it is important to gather as much evidence as possible. such as a mother picking up her baby. make copies of the Footprint Pattern and cut the panels apart. hand out or project panel 3. that they met each other (or didn’t). and to remember that there might be parts of the story that are not represented by the evidence. Could there have been a source of food or water there? 6 Finally. Grades 3–5 Related Specimen: Dinosaur footprint By studying footprint patterns revealed in stages. one per student (see page following this activity) OR an overhead transparency of each of the Footprint Patterns What To Do: 1 To prepare for this activity. that they were large or small. Ask students to examine the panel closely. 2 Ask the class what they know about reading evidence to reconstruct an event. Now what do your students think might have happened? There is no one correct answer to any of these questions.

(You can use flour instead of water. or divide students into teams and have them interpret each others’ stories out loud or in writing. Have one or two students sponge water on the soles of their shoes and then step on the paper. humans.ACTIVITY 4 Footprint Forensics (continued) SCIENCE AND • Take students outdoors on a damp day. or just passing by. birds. Have students share their footprint patterns with the class. marine creatures. Have them find animal tracks in a nearby park and try to interpret them. Extend the activity by having some students leave the room while others act out a footprint story that the others interpret (out loud or in writing) on their return to the room. Have them think of other ways to interpret the footprints. leaving footprints. FOSSILS 20 . They can use tracks of animals. have students design their own footprint patterns.) Then have them act out a scene—walking along in opposite directions and stopping to greet each other. for example. and even leaf prints. • With pencil and paper. LITERACY EXTENSIONS: • Put large sheets of brown paper on the floor of the classroom.

Footprint Pattern Panel 1 Panel 2 Panel 3 .

sit back and study the results. do not worry about the levels being uniform around the classroom—they are not uniform within the Earth either! 5 As a class. In the classroom landscape. How might they go about finding answers to their questions? Grades 3–5 Related Specimens: All The purpose of this activity is to engage students in thinking about how the various layers of the Earth in which fossils are found help us map geologic time. while a desk across the room may represent the Cenozoic. given that most of them are formed underground? • Among the fossils in the case. at the level of the classroom corresponding to their geologic era or period. As a class. from the case • 3x5 cards or similar-sized paper and pencils • Tape measure What To Do: 1 Introduce the activity by showing students the Geologic Time poster. you may also hand out pictures of fossils or extinct creatures found in books or on the Internet. if available. its geologic period. are there more marine organisms or more land organisms? Do you think this is typical for all fossils? Why? • On the Geological Time poster. what level represents the Paleozoic era? What level represents the Cenozoic era? [Note: These layers do not have to be uniform throughout the classroom—the layers within the earth are not all the same thickness everywhere. where would you look for fossils. if you have not already done so. FOSSILS 22 . the Geologic Time poster. the floor—all represent different layers beneath the surface of the Earth. Looking at the landscape of fossils the students have created. If the ceiling represents the present-day level of the earth’s surface. Again. or other surfaces around the room. then the heights of the room’s features— desks. Point out how eras and periods are shown on the poster in uneven layers. A desk in one corner may represent the Paleozoic. how does the proportion of marine and land animals change as time goes on? When do plants appear? See page 25 for details on how this activity meets New York State Learning Standards. geologic era and. Discussion Questions: • Do all specimens from the same period have to be at the same height off the floor? What forces of nature could cause them to be at different levels? • If you were a paleontologist. They encounter different fossils everywhere and at different levels. 2 Have the students re-imagine the classroom as representing different areas of the Earth’s landscape. This information can come from the Information About the Specimens section of this guide (pages 7–10).] 3 Point out how the Geologic Time poster shows the major life forms present in each era and period. bookshelves. have them imagine they are paleontologists on a field expedition. They do not know the relationships among the fossils or how old any of them is. figure out what era or period each surface should represent.ACTIVITY 5 Create a 3-D Geologic Time Model 4 Have students place the fossils and their labels on shelves. The earliest eras and periods are at the bottom. tabletops. The layout of the layers on the poster is analogous to the layers within the Earth. Hand out the specimens from the case and have students write a label for each specimen with its name. or other library or Internet resources. Materials: • Geologic Time poster. chairs. Review the concept of eras and periods of geologic time. If there are not enough specimens for each student. the books in the case. bookcases. tables.

” Literacy and Music: Create a Geological Rap Grades 4–5 Have students put the names of geologic eras and periods into a rap If students would rather sing than rap. the students can use spoons. followed by two lines with a different rhyme.uky. Science and Health: Edible Fossils All Grades Who knew that eating fossils could be so much fun? See www.ACTIVITY 6 Additional Activities and Curricular Connections Science: Research a Fossil Grades 3–5 Have students choose one of the geologic periods and research its common plants and Using the Paleontology Portal (see www.htm for recipes for making celery cephalopods. so as not to damage their “fossil. With this ammonites in a blanket. have them fill in a map with those locations. featuring all the plants and animals belonging to it.” found at www. Since many of the terms have rhyming endings.) When the plaster sets. The lyric structure of a rap song is a series of couplets—two lines that end in a rhyme. See page 25 for details on how these activities meet New York State Learning they can find out where in the U. Literacy: Dinosaur Word Puzzle Grades 4–5 Print out a copy of the dinosaur word puzzle at www.html. this should not be difficult.sdnhm.ehow. chopsticks. (or New York State) those plants and animals lived. and allow it to set at least partially before adding the next. and challenge your students to see who can finish first. (You can bury them in a single layer of plaster. Pour each layer in one at a time. FOSSILS 23 . they can write new words to go with a familiar tune (such as “Dem Bones. but if you would like to simulate the different layers found in the earth. and so on. and prehistoric desserts. have children bury chicken bones that have been boiled clean in unset plaster of Paris. Remind them to be gentle when digging around the bone tells you how). and other dull instruments to “dig” them out. In a shallow plastic container or cardboard box. Science: Archaeological Dig Grades 1–5 Simulate an archaeological dig in the classroom. you can also create layers by adding food coloring to different bowls of plaster. Students can accompany themselves by making a variety of percussive sounds with their bodies (www. Alternatively.paleoportal. they may draw an imaginary scene of a landscape during the period they selected.S.php).wiki.htm).

fossilization: the process by which a living organism.■ RESOURCES AND REFERENCE MATERIALS ■ Vocabulary Words body fossil: a part of the actual animal or plant. trace fossils are much more common than body fossils. wind. the species is said to be extinct. i. coprolites: the fossil dung of an animal. rounded stone found with dinosaur remains. A single animal can make thousands and thousands of traces in its lifetime. so that the structure and form of the organism are retained. replacement fossil: a fossil created when inorganic minerals gradually replace the original organic material. burrow: a hole or holes in sedimentary rock that were dug by an animal organism: any living thing. at a molecular level. viscous (thick liquid) state. in which it is embedded. that is. solidified by pressure. made by a single foot. becomes a fossil. or trace. such as a plant or animal.000 years ago. and Cenozoic. geologic time the time in which the history of the Earth has unfolded. Things like bones. extinction: when all individuals of a species have died out.. fossil: the remains or traces of organisms. sedimentary rock: layered rock formed by sequential deposits by water. such that the original organism has become rock. Mesozoic. such stones are now thought to have been a digestive aid for dinosaurs who swallowed them to help grind up food in their stomachs. made by an animal without legs. petrifaction: the state of being petrified. track: an impression.e. or trace. a mold is the hollow shape left in sedimentary rock by a decayed organism. molten: in a hot. cast: in paleontology. plant or animal. that lived at least 10. burrows. but it will only leave behind one body when it dies. shells. each comprising millions of years and a number of sub-divisions called periods. not just fossils. gastrolith: a smooth. Because of this. index fossil: a fossilized creature that lived only in one specific time period can be used as an indicator (index) of the date of the rock in which it is found. over a long period of time. including microscopic organisms. Some eras include the Pre-Cambrian. matrix: the rock surrounding a fossil. that trace the movements or activity of an organism. or even its whole. FOSSILS 24 . a positive version of a mold. geologist: a scientist who studies the entire history of the earth. and leaves are considered body fossils. paleontologist: a scientist who studies the history of life through its fossil remains. a period is a unit of an era. trail: an impression. and fossilized dung. period: in geological time. the replacement of organic matter by silica over a long period of time. long a mystery. Paleozoic. teeth. trace fossil: includes things like footprints. era: a large unit of geologic time. when a mold has been filled in with sedimentary material and takes on the shape of the organism that made the mold. Body fossils also include casts and molds that reveal the external and internal structure of the organism. mold: in paleontology. or ice of small rocks or organic matter.

anecdotes. oral interviews. and songs using the elements of the literature they have read and appropriate vocabulary Observe the conventions of grammar and usage. and capitalization. printmaking.. posters. and punctuation Listen attentively and recognize when it is appropriate for them to speak Take turns speaking and respond to other ideas in conversations on familiar topics Ask "why" questions in attempts to seek greater understanding concerning objects and events they have observed and heard about Question the explanations they hear from others and read about. sculpture. length. punctuation. and charts Use details. video. as well as sentence and paragraph structures appropriate to written forms Create their own stories.g. & Technology MST 2 4 4 1 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 1 MST 1 MST 1 Scientific Inquiry • • • • FOSSILS 25 . mass. and computer graphics). Science. in a variety of mediums (drawing. textbooks. or personal experiences to explain or clarify information Observe basic writing conventions. and diagrams Ask specific questions to clarify and extend meaning Present information clearly in a variety of oral and written forms such as summaries. temperature. electronic bulletin boards. volume. brief reports. painting. and time) Activity 1 2 3 4 5 6 • Arts 1 Visual Arts • • • English Language Arts 1 Listening & Reading • • • ELA ELA 1 1 Listening & Reading Speaking & Writing Speaking & Writing Speaking & Writing • • • • • • • • • • • ELA ELA 1 1 • • • • • • • • • • • ELA 2 Speaking & Writing Speaking & Writing Speaking & Writing Speaking & Writing Scientific Inquiry Scientific Inquiry Scientific Inquiry • • • • • • • • ELA ELA ELA Math. such as correct spelling. audio and media presentations. ceramics. based on a range of individual and collective experiences Gather and interpret information from children's reference books. seeking clarification and comparing them with their own observations and understandings Develop relationships among observations to construct descriptions of objects and events and to form their own tentative explanations of what they have observed Carry out their plans for exploring phenomena through direct observation and through the use of simple instruments that permit measurements of quantities (e. examples. poems.■ RESOURCES AND REFERENCE MATERIALS ■ Correlations with New York State Learning Standards The activities included in this guide meet the following New York State Learning Standard Performance Indicators for elementary students (K–5): New York State Learning Standard Performance Indicators (Elementary Level) Standard Area Standard # Arts 1 Subject Music Letter a Students will Create short pieces consisting of sounds from a variety of traditional. paraphrases. spelling. and nontraditional sound sources Experiment and create art works. and from such forms as charts. graphs. electronic. maps. stories. magazines.

including changes in states of matter Analyze. and operate models in order to discover attributes of the real thing Discover that a model of something is different from the real thing but can be used to study the real thing Work effectively-Contributing to the work of a brainstorming group. identifying and managing responsibilities of team members. laboratory partnership. and land on Earth Observe and describe properties of materials using appropriate tools Describe chemical and physical changes. cooperative learning group.■ RESOURCES AND REFERENCE MATERIALS ■ Correlations with New York State Learning Standards The activities included in this guide meet the following New York State Learning Standard Performance Indicators for elementary students (K–5): New York State Learning Standard Performance Indicators (Elementary Level) Standard Area Standard # MST 1 Subject Scientific Inquiry Scientific Inquiry Physical Setting MST 4 Physical Setting Physical Setting Models Models Strategies Letter Students will Organize observations and measurements of objects and events through classification and the preparation of simple charts and tables Share their findings with others and actively seek their interpretations and ideas Describe the relationships among air. and staying on task. planning procedures. water. construct. whether working alone or as part of a group Activity 1 2 3 4 5 6 • MST 1 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • MST MST MST MST 4 6 6 7 FOSSILS 26 . or project team.

Martin’s Press.brooklynkids.nps.■ RESOURCES AND REFERENCE MATERIALS ■ Corresponding Field Trips In addition to the organizations below. For a listing of programs currently available. 1997. 2001. 2000.php?set= b&topic_id=5&subtopic_id=80 Press. Judy. or marble. www.html University of is made of limestone and fossils are abundant in the buildings.nps. New York. 2002. The Paleontology Portal: Good for looking up fossils by period or type of organism. Fossils (Smithsonian Handbooks). Fossils. Jeff.paleoportal. Berkeley: Information and activities about fossils. to name a prominent example. Once the students get the hang of looking for Indianapolis Children’s Museum Dinosphere: Activities for kids. www. American Museum of Natural History 79th and Central Park West. Bone Poems.htm Petrified Forest National Park Aetosaur Virtual Dig: A slide show illustrating a paleontologist digging up an The Natural History Museum. and Paul R. London: Great information and activities on dinosaurs www. A Golden Guide. please see our website at www. The Kids' Natural History Book: Making Dinos. New York: DK Adult. a sedimentary rock. guides for or contact the Scheduling Assistant at 718-735-4400. and Raymond Perlman. Shaffer. Fossils.ucmp. Rhodes. look for special National Earth Science Week activities held annually in October. www. New York. extension 118. Mammoths & More! Charlotte. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum also offers programs on a variety of natural history topics. Fossil Walking Tour Many buildings in the city are made of limestone. Vermont: Williamson Publishing www. in geologic time. Zim.html Museum Victoria: Information about dinosaurs.dsml FOSSILS 27 . Bibliography and Web Resources The following books and websites may help you to enrich your experience with the objects in the case. www. Scout out some local locations (perhaps even your own school building has fossils in it) and take your students on a walking tour to find the fossils. Herbert interactive map showing life in the U. Several corresponding websites for educators offer downloadable guides to the galleries and activities to go along with your visit: www.nhm.T.amnh. there’s no end to where they can use this skill. New York.childrensmuseum. Frank Lincoln Center. Manhattan (212) 769-5200 The AMNH has the world’s most spectacular collection of fossils. New York: St. www.htm San Diego Natural History Museum Field Guide to Fossils: Find out more about individual fossils.php Petrified Forest National Park Triassic World: Reading and pictures for kids about what lived in the Triassic period. a metamorphic rock. www. New York: Workman

. 118.Acknowledgments Beth Alberty Chrisy Ledakis Tim Hayduk Nobue Hirabayashi Whitney Thompson ■ Portable Collections Series Coordinator Melissa Husby ■ Special Thanks Daniel Dixon The Teachers of the New York City Department of Education ■ Funding The revision of this Portable Collections Program caset guide is made possible by a Learning Opportunities Grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.brooklynkids. 170 www. ■ ■ ■ © 2006 Brooklyn Children’s Museum 145 Brooklyn Avenue Brooklyn. New York 11213 718-735-4400 ext. please contact the Scheduling Assistant at 718-735-4400 For information about renting this or other Portable Collections Program cases.