Teach the Earth > Paleontology > Teaching Activities > Fossil Identification

Fossil Identification

Connie Soja, Colgate University, csoja@colgate.edu

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


This activity asks students to identify examples of types of fossils amongst the exhibits at the Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, New York. Students will build on their understanding of the history of life, paleontology, taphonomy, ichnology, and paleoecology–especially reefs.



This activity is appropriate for an introductory paleontology, paleobiology, or history of life course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should have a basic understanding of the processes involved in fossilization, trace fossils, reef ecosystems, and related vocabulary. They will need to be able to recognize specimens preserved through different means–mineralization, carbonization, cast/mold, etc.–and to identify members and roles of ancient reef-dwelling organisms.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity functions as a culminating project or a stand-alone exercise, but students must have covered the above concepts.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students will apply concepts covered in class, particularly taphonomy, to the interpretation of real fossil specimens.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

In addition to identifying specific kinds of fossils, students are asked to analyze and evaluate how information is presented in exhibits.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students will utilize the Museum as a reference, and write about favorite specimens and qualitatively support their choices.

Description and Teaching Materials

Museum of the Earth Assignment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 15kB Mar3 14)

Teaching Notes and Tips


References and Resources

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