Fossils under your Feet: Using the Paleobiology Database to explore local fossils
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
- Define what a fossil is (Part 1)
- Find their local county or province on a map of the world (Part 2)
- Estimate an area as a percent (i.e., estimate percentage of a state is covered by dots)(Part 2)
- Define a body versus trace fossil (Part 3)
- Define the term extinct (Part 3)
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
- fossil organisms
- what they looked like
- when they lived
- the environment in which they lived
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
- Estimate what percentage of their state/province is represented by data in the PBDB
- Describe where fossil organisms have been found in their local county
- List which fossil phyla (plural of phylum) have been found in their local county
- Research the common names of organisms classified in those phyla
- Research when and where one particular species (their choice) lived in the fossil record
- Determine whether that species was a body or trace fossil
- Figure out whether that species is extinct or still living today
- Research what that species looked like, how it fed (if applicable), and its habitat, etc.
- Determine the geologic age of a fossil locality in their local county
Other skills goals for this activity
Description of the activity/assignment
This activity is designed to be flexible and can be used as a lecture, lab, or homework activity. It is divided into four parts and can be modified by picking and choosing which parts (and which questions within parts) to include. It can also be modified by asking all of your students to choose the same town, collection, phyla, or species to focus on. The duration of the activity ranges from 10 minutes to two hours, depending on which parts are assigned.
Students can work as individuals or in pairs and class size can range from a small seminar (< 10 students) to a large lecture (> 100), as long as sufficient computer facilities are available.
Each student or student pair will need access to a laptop or desktop computer connected to the internet, running both Microsoft Word and an internet browser.
Determining whether students have met the goals
Note that assessment for this activity is much easier if instructors choose a specific county, collection, and organism on which all students focus.
Can be accomplished in lecture or lab by observing student progress and trouble-shooting challenges. Can also double-check that the major tasks (i.e., choosing a county/province, choosing a collection, listing phyla, choosing a species, finding a image of the species or genus, determining geologic age) are accomplished in a timely manner and are accurate.
Key summative assessment points include: listing phyla, listing common names, finding a image of the species or genus, describing the species, and determining geologic age. Summative assessment can also be included as midterm and final exam questions focusing on the key summative assessment points listed above.
Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment: Student handout for "Fossils under your Feet" (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 23kB Jul20 17)
- Instructors Notes: Instructor notes for "Fossils under your Feet" (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 18kB Jul20 17)
Estimate an area as a percent
Body versus trace fossil
Teaching with open-ended questions
See videos 4.3.1 through to 4.4.4: http://stemteachingcourse.org/course-content/course-content-2/module-4-assessment/