"It's Alive!" Fossil Activity
This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process.
This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.
This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection
This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are
- Scientific Accuracy
- Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
- Pedagogic Effectiveness
- Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
- Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page
For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.
This page first made public: Mar 21, 2014
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Other skills goals for this activity
Description of the activity/assignment
Students are presented with a set of fossil specimens in boxes (with no identifying labels). Each student selects one fossil of their own. They are asked to make and record very close, detailed observations of the specimen, and to sketch the fossil. Then they are told to "think like it's 1600." Someone has brought this object, taken out of the local rocks, for the student to investigate. The student must write a "proof" that this fossil was obviously once alive, and is not just an interesting mineral or rock formation. They can use their observations, compare the specimen to other objects with which they're familiar, resort to pure logic, or apply any other avenue of argumentation they think will help make their case.
In the next lab, on fossil preservation and taphonomy, the students revisit their fossil specimen, and determine its mode of preservation. Indeed, the student's "pet fossil" could be used throughout the course to illustrate various components of the course content.
Determining whether students have met the goals
- Depth and level of detail in the student's description of the specimen
- Care taken in making the sketch (although artistic ability is downplayed, attention to detail is important)
- Thought shown in, and creativity of, the student's proof
Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment: "It\'s Alive!" Fossil Activity (Microsoft Word 40kB Jul27 09)
- Instructors Notes:
- Solution Set: