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Paleontology Portal Teachers' Guide

Welcome! We know great science teaching is challenging, demanding of your time and resources. The Paleontology Portal can help you efficiently enhance or launch a high quality paleontology explanation. What follows is a quick summary of what you can find here:

  • An interactive map that provides an overview of the paleontology and geology of each state, province, and region of the United States, Canada, and Mexico through geologic time
  • A map showing the shapes and positions of land masses and oceans during that time period
  • Descriptions of the world geography and climate, and North American geology and paleontology, for that time period
  • Images of fossil organisms from a specific taxonomic group, state and/or time period
  • Information on significant fossil finds in North America
  • Links to general resources, information on careers and upcoming events, and data from fossil collections
  • Access to a searchable database that includes data from multiple museum collections

In addition, we recommend:
Prerequisites for student use
Students should be familiar with several topics before beginning an exploration of this site.

Plate tectonics: Evidence for Plate Tectonics
Geologic time: Understanding Geologic Time
Fossils: Getting Into the Fossil Record
Cladistics and phylogeny: What Did T. rex Taste Like?

Background information for teachers

Geologic maps: Map Layer Info
Colors of the geologic time scale: USGS Tapestry of Time and Terrain: explanation of the legend
Evolution: Understanding Evolution
Nature of science: Understanding Evolution's Nature of Science

Sample activities for using the PaleoPortal
A set of inquiry-based activities that make use of the data within the PaleoPortal

  • The Life Story of a Fossil (for grades 6-8)
    In this lesson, students select an organism that existed during a specific geologic period in a specific state in the United States. Students then imagine themselves as that organism and use resources to write a story that describes their life, death, and entry into the fossil record.
  • A Cross-Country Trip in the Old Days (for grades 6-12)
    In this lesson, students examine the fossil and geologic records across a transect of the United States during a single period of time. By examining the evidence, they make inferences as to the paleoenvironment of that time and predict what additional evidence they might find in neighboring states.
  • Paleoenvironmental Booklet (for grades 6-12)
    In this lesson, students will use information about rock types and fossils found in a particular state to make inferences about the paleoenvironment of the location throughout Earth's history. Students will produce a booklet with information about the paleoenvironment during each Period, as well as an illustration of the location during that time.

About the Paleontology Portal

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