For the next few weeks our class will be learning about fossils – the different types of fossils, how fossils are made, and why fossils are important.
Fossils are old – often REALLY old. Fossils are rare (especially in our Granite State of New Hampshire). Fossils are remains of dead plants and animals, or evidence of dead plants and animals. Who wants to learn about really old dead things? Why learn about really old dead things?
We began our unit with a trash bag. I rummaged through a trash bag and pulled out different items. After examining these items, it only took a few educated guesses to discover the owner of this trash bag – our classroom’s valued paraprofessional, Mrs. Duffy. Why go through someone’s trash? Because someone’s trash can give us clues about what that person’s life is like.
Why learn about fossils? Because fossils can give us clues about what earth’s life was like MANY years ago – how cool is that? Learning about fossils is not only like solving mysteries, but it easily connects to the process of scientific inquiry – something our youth definitely needs experience with.
When someone is studying any topic, if the topic is relevant to their life, they are bound to be more interested. So how do we make studying fossils relevant, especially in our fossil-starved State of New Hampshire?
- By investigating current events
- By examining how it relates to our lives
- By acting out the process of a paleontologist
Today our students read an article and watched a video about an adult wooly mammoth that was discovered by Michigan farmers…this past weekend! This investigation of a current event alone inspired students to want to go and dig in their backyard.
For the last couple of years students at our school lobbied (unfortunately unsuccessfully) to have an official state fossil declared. They researched what types of fossils were discovered in our own state, learning how fossils related to our local lives – it was an incredible learning experience. This year I have contacted a UNH and Dartmouth professor regarding a fossil we have in our class – they are very intrigued and have already provided some feedback (see below). We have a large, real life example in our classroom!
In a couple of weeks our class will be taking a short walk behind our school to “dig for fossils.” Although we will likely not find any authentic fossils, students will discover something – and participate in the process of how to excavate and study fossils.
Making learning relevant is one very effective way we here at Bradford strive to help make our students’ education engaging and worthwhile. I certainly hope your child finds our fossil unit to be both an exciting and valuable experience.
Professors’ Comments on our Classroom Fossil:
“The fossil seems somewhat vertebral, or even the end of a long bone. My first guess was that is was from a whale, but really not certain. I note that it seems imbedded in a hard rock matrix. Therefore, geologically quite old, and probably not from around here. Which then begs the question – something from quite distant in time.”
– Professor Gary Johnson, Dartmouth
“Definitely fossil bone which makes it a lot more interesting than most of what passes through my email box from state residents! I agree with Gary that my first guess would be whale or at least large mammal (bones look hollow). Size looks like it could be a dinosaur but bone texture looks more mammal.”
– Professor Will Clyde, UNH