Students are taken on an imaginary fossil hunt and hypothesize as to the identity of the creature they discover. Students revise their hypotheses as new evidence is "found."
Cut out the fossils beforehand and laminate them for extended durability.
Point out that paleontologists often find single bones or even fragments of bones rather than sets of bones as we have in the activity.
Class discussion is an important part of this activity. Some questions to consider:
How did you decide how to arrange the fossils? How sure were you of the arrangements? How did this change when more fossils became available? Are there certain skeletal elements that are more revealing than others? Why? What can you conclude about the habitat that this creature lived in, about what it ate and how it obtained its food? What is your evidence?
You might ask your students to think about how confident they are that their hypotheses are correct. That would allow them to see that some hypotheses have better support than others, and why.
Correspondence to the Next Generation Science Standards is indicated in parentheses after each relevant concept. See our conceptual framework for details.
- Life forms of the past were in some ways very different from living forms of today, but in other ways very similar. (LS4.A)
- There are similarities and differences among fossils and living organisms.
- Scientists test their ideas using multiple lines of evidence. (P6, NOS2)
- Scientists can test ideas about events and processes long past, very distant, and not directly observable.
- Scientific knowledge is open to question and revision as we come up with new ideas and discover new evidence. (P4, P6, NOS3)
- The real process of science is complex, iterative, and can take many different paths.
- Science is a human endeavor. (NOS7)
- Scientists use fossils (including sequences of fossils showing gradual change over time) to learn about past life.
- Scientists may explore many different hypotheses to explain their observations. (P7)