MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Mary Anning: An artistic look at the "Princess of Paleontology"

Mary Anning: An artistic look at the "Princess of Paleontology"

Jennifer Hubert, Jenny Lind Elementary School, Minneapolis, MN, Based on Lecture notes from Professor Larry Davis MnSTEP, Web site information from, and Book Laurence Anholt, Stone Girl Bone Girl: The Story of Mary Anning, ISBN 1-84507-700-8, Frances Lincoln Publishers 2006
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In this classroom activity students will listen to the story Stone Girl Bone Girl: The Story of Mary Anning. They will discuss what fossils are and how they are made. Students will complete an observation drawing of some common fossils from the twin cities area.

Learning Goals

This activity is designed for students to practice their observation skills. To give the students time to focus on seeing an object. Students will learn how fossils are formed and the importance of sedimentary rock in the formation of fossils. Some of the vocabulary words introduced in this lesson are permineralization, Platteville Limestone, Brachiopods, Bryozoans, and Crinoids.

Context for Use

This lesson would be appropriate for all primary grades. (I even plan to adapt this lesson to do this with my pre-school class) It would be appropriate for any class size. I plan to teach this in two 55-minute periods. It could be extended to three class periods and could be combined with a field trip to Lilydale Park. I will teach this as part of my art curriculum's drawing unit.

Subject: Geoscience:Paleontology
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Paleontology

Description and Teaching Materials

Materials needed- student drawing paper and/ or scientific notebooks, Stone Girl Bone Girl: The Story of Mary Anning, pencils, Ordovician Fossils of Minnesota Twin Cities Area identification sheet

Procedure- Show students the fossils gathered from Lilydale Regional Park in St. Paul, MN. Ask the students to journal/ sketch the fossils for about 10 minutes. Gather the students and ask them about the items they were sketching. Read Stone Girl Bone Girl: The Story of Mary Anning and ask them to listen for clues about what the word fossil might mean. Have the students think/pair/share their fossil definitions. Explain that a fossil is the hard parts of the animal, buried rapidly, left alone for a very long time where chemical alteration occurs. Permineralization is the pore space in bone, shell, or wood that is filled by minerals, especially silica. Briefly explain how sedimentary rocks are formed. (This could be done in a prior lesson more in depth) Point out how the fine material that limestone is composed of is a perfect place to create fossils. Show examples of Mary Anning's artwork created at the age of 12. Ask students to create a new drawing of their fossils adding as much detail as possible. While students are drawing pass out the Ordovician Fossils of Minnesota Twin Cities Area identification sheet. Ask students who finish early to identify the fossils at their table. They should use labels such as Brachiopods, Bryozoans, and Crinoids.

Extensions- Add color to drawings with colored pencils, watercolors or crayon, retrace pencil lines with marker. Add a background to drawings. Field trip to Lilydale Regional Park in St. Paul, Mn. [file 'Website for Lilydale park and fossil types handout.'] Mary Anning's Drawings (Acrobat (PDF) 35kB Jul20 08) Mary Anning's Drawings (Acrobat (PDF) 11kB Jul20 08) Mary Anning's Drawings (Acrobat (PDF) 122kB Jul20 08)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This lesson is different than the lessons that I typically teach because of the science content included. I don't typically include as much science vocabulary in my art classes.


This lesson will be graded by students level of participation. Teacher will review student drawings.


5.III.A.1- rock cycle sedimentary rock
5.IV.E.3 - compare fossils

References and Resources