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A Teaching Tool That Promotes Enthusiastic Learning

How can you use fossils as a teaching tool?

In my classrooms over the years, fossils have never failed to spark fun and enthusiasm for learning about the earth. I have seen students, otherwise disengaged in activities of learning, become totally captivated with the process of uncovering the fossil hiding beneath the surface of soft rock.

Fossils connect students to the history of our planet. They can simultaneously imagine the situation of ancient life, while examining current habitats and species that could become the fossils of the future.

Perhaps you are looking to bring this sort of enthusiasm to your classroom or your children at home.

Fossils inspire all sorts of questions. Consider these possibilities:

  • How old is this? (Leading to the study of the Earth’s history.)
  • What kind of animal was this? (Leading to zoology and species classification.)
  • Where did it live? (Leading to habitats past and present, including botany.)
  • How did it live? (Leading to a study of vital functions—more zoology.)
  • How did it form? (Back to a study of geology and rock formation.)

The list seems endless. A source for inexpensive fossils to inspire your students is You don't have to spend a lot of money to get your students really excited.

Fossils are not only attention-getters; they are also incredibly versatile as a teaching tool. Fossils make a great theme for integrated curriculum studies.

Fossils: A Language Teaching Tool
If you get creative, there are all types of stories to be written: factual, imaginative, and even poetry. Imaginations run wild when you hold the fossil of a long-extinct species in your hand. You could write tales of life on the ancient sea floor, or how that particular animal met its demise and became the fossil you are holding today. You could create an entire language arts curriculum around it!

Math Teaching Tool
If it’s math you’d like to kick into gear, working with the geologic time periods offers opportunities for scientific notation, exponents, scale (when placing them on a timeline), and comparisons between lifespan lengths. Then there are the geometric qualities of the shells and chitinous exoskeletons. You could study fractals or tessellations, just to name a couple possibilities.

A Biology Teaching Tool
The biology-related curriculum is obvious. Classification, developmental changes and adaptation to environment, vital functions, and predator-prey relationships are just a few of the possibilities for further in-depth study.

Earth Science Teaching Tool
Likewise, geology takes on a new meaning when seen through the fossils’ eyes. The stone containing the fossil may have once been an ocean floor, a swampy bog, or a boulder-filled riverbed. As students look at the quality of the matrix that contains their fossil, they are inspired to think about the material and situation that created it.

Compared to all the other subjects, it's history that can take on a whole new meaning through the use of fossils as a teaching tool. History as a series of cause-and-effect events is never more clear than when looking at the events that caused the extinction and fossilization of species that students can hold in their hands.

It seems that using fossils as a teaching tool a creative teacher, parent or student would find an endless promise of topics to study, limited only by the personal interest and creativity of the student.

There is truly nothing like a fossil to inspire! Your students will show you the way…and love you for letting them reach deep into their creativity to do it!

Education Articles

Lesson plans using fossils as a teaching tool

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interested in more? If so, you may want to check out our other sites: - Our online fossil and mineral rock shop. - An educational site about rocks, minerals, and geology.