Connecting Paleontology and Culture: Inclusive Narratives Through Fossil Use Cards

Monday 11:15-11:45am PT / 12:15-12:45pm MT / 1:15-1:45pm CT / 2:15-2:45pm ET Online
Share-a-Thon Part of Share-a-Thon


Christy Visaggi, Georgia State University
Tara Lepore, University of California-Berkeley
Trisha Smrecak, Northwestern Michigan College


The demonstration will include an exploration of all materials related to the fossil use cards.


By examining ways in which humans have interacted with fossils, we can highlight a range of cultural connections to paleontology that emphasize improved representation of inclusive cultural narratives while championing learning about the fossil record in a way that isn't solely from a Eurocentric lens. Fossil use cards are an educational resource developed by several members of the Education and Outreach committee of the Paleontological Society for the "Earth Materials in Our Lives" focus of Earth Science Week 2020, representing rigorous educational development work. This resource includes 25 cards that each feature an image and name of a fossil, and how the fossil resource has been used by humans (e.g., jewelry, forensics, building materials). Students and educators can mix and match cards for small group classroom work or interact with a virtual drag-and-drop version online. The resource contains a list of relevant standards by grade level and NGSS-aligned extension questions for further discussion. Fun facts, a Kahoot quiz, and pseudofossil cards are additionally included for ready-to-use learning opportunities. Learning outcomes include understanding and identification of fossils, how fossils are and have been used by a wide variety of global cultures, and when and where ancient biota lived in Earth history.


The resource has been used in a variety of settings, most often in informal education, K-12 outreach, and educator preparation. Subsets of the cards have been used for introductory and upper level classes in university settings as well.

Why It Works

The resource is innovative in exploring fossils in new ways and bringing a diversity of human experiences into their use and study. To our knowledge, no other such resource exists that combines such a wealth of examples linking fossils to their cultural uses, and offers multiple ways to play by grouping fossils also by environmental setting, era, etc. The availability of a flexible, printable version for small group instruction in person as well as doing so online via drag-and-drop methods allows for minimal educator preparation and maximizes instructional time. The rigorously researched fun facts, NGSS extension questions, and pre-made Kahoot quiz linked to the resource offers additional options for learning. The fossil use cards and all related materials are available in both English and Spanish.

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