This is a partially developed activity description. It is included in the collection because it contains ideas useful for teaching even though it is incomplete.

Life Through Time

Authors: John Taylor, Ronald Martin, Judy Massare, Allison Tumarkin-Deratzian, Chris Brochu

Activity Description

Based on displays at the Museum of the Earth PRI Ithaca NYDivide the class into teams and assign each team to a different group of fossils on display in the museum e.g. terrestrial plants terrestrial animals marine vertebrates arthropods molluscs and brachiopods. Have each team track the major changes that it observes in its group of animals/plants based on what the team can see in the fossils on display in the museum inevitably a limited data set. Each team will create a concept sketch illustrating those changes and the teams interpretations of the timing and possible causes of those changes again based on the limited data set in the museum but using what they have learned in class and lab for background/context. Once each team has finished its work the teams will re-form into mixed groups with one person from each team in each group. Team members will share what they have observed and each group will compare and contrast across the taxonomic groups the nature timing and potential causes for the changes and consider the possible sources of discrepant results.Each individual student will write a short paragraph on why the museum is organized the way it is.Adaptable to other museums with fossils on display from different time periods.

Learning Goals

  • Students will recognize major changes in fauna and flora explain and interpret causes and timing of changes in different groups and consider why the museum is organized the way it is. The museum collection can serve as a way of illustrating the issue of coping with a limited data set.


A team concept sketch for each block of time showing major changes the group explanation of causes and timing of changes and sources of discrepant results and individual paragraph on museum organization.