Taphonomy: Dead and Fossilized

Wednesday 12:00-2:00pm PT / 1:00-3:00pm MT / 2:00-4:00pm CT / 3:00-5:00pm ET Online
Share-a-Thon Part of Share-a-Thon


Enrique Reyes, Northside ISD - San Antonio
Rowan Martindale, The University of Texas at Austin
Estefania Salgado-Jauregui, Servicio Geologico Colombiano


The aim of the Share-a-Thon demonstration will be to showcase "Taphonomy: Dead and Fossilized preservation" as a course unit that is ready to implement into applicable classrooms (grades 9-12). As an educational board game, "Taphonomy: Dead and Fossilized" provides a break from a traditional classroom laboratory and allows students to experiment with a game-model for fossilization. The activity will be presented with all prepared educational materials, including lesson plans and assessments.


"Taphonomy: Dead and Fossilized" is a unique board game experience that aims to teach the concepts of Taphonomy, the process of fossilization and preservation biases, through gameplay. Students will assume the role of time-traveling paleontologists looking to preserve 10 fossils from environmental events until they can be collected in the present day. For players, the aim of the game is to collect the most pristine and/or diverse fossil collection. Taphonomic factors play a crucial role in gameplay with scores being affected by organism type (some organisms are worth more points than others) and penalties for poor preservation, such as remineralization. The game is accompanied by a 3-day classroom lesson which allows the students to explore the game and taphonomy concepts before they begin gameplay. Lesson materials, including pre-play instructional materials and assessments, are aligned to NGSS standard ESS2.A Earth Materials and Systems. Through this board game, students will evaluate the effect of Earth's systems across geologic time with fossils as the case study. The game also acts as a model for various fossilization pathways.


The activity is to be used as a short class unit around the topics of Taphonomy, evolution, or Earth system interactions. The activity is a self-contained unit with lesson plans for up to 2-3 days with formative and summative assessments. There are versions of the game available for 12th grade classrooms and undergraduate Geology classrooms. Teaching notes and scaffolding notes are available to simplify or extend the activity.

Why It Works

"Gamifying the classroom" is an innovative approach to implementing student-driven educational experiences in the classroom. Board games offer novelty and some familiarity with the learning activity, creating a higher capacity for student engagement in the classroom. "Taphonomy: Dead and Fossilized" offers a competitive environment where students use their knowledge to form strategies to win the game. In order to devise the best strategy, students will be tasked to consider all taphonomic variables during gameplay, immersing them in the fossilization process.

Presentation Media

Taphonomy: Dead and Fossilized Game & Lesson Pamphlet (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 1.8MB Jul9 20)
Student Handout for Taphonomy: Dead and Fossilized (Acrobat (PDF) 629kB Jul9 20)
Taphonomy: Dead and Fossilized Quick Presentation (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 2.6MB Jul9 20)

Session Connection Information

This session has already taken place.