K-5 GeoSource: Fossils

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Education and Outreach

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  • Classroom Activities


American Geosciences Institute (AGI)


In this unit, your students will study fossils. Fossils are any evidence of past plant or animal life contained in sediment or a sedimentary rock, from bones, shells or teeth to imprints of a dinosaur’s foot. Students will see that to hold a fossil is to hold millions of years of history in their hands. For example, the ridges, bumps, and curves of a fossilized clam are the same ridges, bumps, and curves that existed as it filtered water from the sea long ago. Students will also see that studying fossils gives clues about the Earth’s past: its climate, natural disasters, and changing landforms and oceans. Almost all fossils are contained in sedimentary rocks. They are virtually nonexistent in igneous rocks, and they are extremely uncommon in metamorphic rocks. Not all sedimentary rocks, however, contain fossils. Students who can tell the difference between igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks and know how they form will be better able to understand fossil formation. They will also be better prepared to understand how scientists find information from fossil-forming environments.

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