Teach the Earth > Paleontology > Teaching Activities > The Unknown Fossil Report

The Unknown Fossil Report

Max W. Reams
Olivet Nazarene University
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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 page first made public: Jun 4, 2009


Students each receive a fossil of unknown identity. They describe the specimen in as much detail as possible. They interpret as much information as they can from the specimen.

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Undergraduate introductory paleontology course, designed to be taken shortly after Physical and Historical Geology.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

They will have completed all taxonomically oriented labs.

How the activity is situated in the course

It is near the end of the course.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The student will draw upon the information learned during the course to identify fossil(s) and interpret the paleoecology and any other Earth history possible by detailed examination of a specimen.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

All the higher order learning skills should be applied during this project.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students write their results in a report.

Description of the activity/assignment

This project challenges the students ingenuity, creativity, and resourcefulness! They each receive a fossil of unknown identity (general geographic locality may be given, e.g., I-55 south of St. Louis, MO). The specimen is described in as much detail as possible. Their report should include taxonomic classification (as complete as they can), age, paleoecology, Earth history, and other interpretations they can infer. Identification may require library work, Internet search, etc.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Each specimen has its own limitations and the report is evaluated on the basis of those limitations.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

The library and the Internet.

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