Fossil data

What could be more fun in our house than a giant zip-top plastic bag crammed full of fossils??

Obviously a rhetorical question – because NOTHING could be!

We ordered this fossil sorting kit from Educational Innovations. When it came, the first thing we did was immediately look at the sorting guide. L took the lead on separating all of the fossils into their different types.

Sorting

Sorting

Once we sorted them, we counted how many of each type we ended up with. We’ve been talking a lot about the idea of data, so this seemed like a perfect moment to pursue that concept. It provided a nice moment to think about groupings by 10’s (and with crinoids, even 100’s!)

Counting ammonites

Counting ammonites

Crinoids in tens and our data capture

Crinoids in tens and our data capture

We talked about how to represent the data and decided to graph it. I asked her how many boxes we would need to fill in to show 158 crinoids. She grasped that 158 boxes was going to be a lot!! For the first time, we went to the computer to pursue our graph. We logged onto the NCES Create a Graph feature. We chose a bar graph and L entered all of the data herself. It created the following graph:

L's graph

L’s graph (note the headers’ spelling!)

We’ve also been talking a lot about multiple ways to interpret the same dataset, and given L’s interest in evolution and time, we decided to re-analyze our data by time. We began by finding and printing a geologic timeline. We then cut out the information about each of the fossils and attached them where they belonged on the timeline.

Fossils in time order

Fossils in time order

Finally, I wanted to stretch her thinking into the logical and organizational realms. We wrote the three periods the fossils were found in (Devonian, Jurassic, and Cretaceous) in black marker. I then asked L to identify her favorite events in Earth’s history. We wrote those in blue marker. She then went through the work of ordered the blue events on our kitchen floor.

Sorting events

Sorting events

Once the blue events were in place, she placed the period markers at their appropriate locations (under the line to differentiate the periods from the events). Finally, she placed one of each fossil in the timeline as well. Here are the two parts (she wanted a big delineation between the Devonian and Jurassic, so they were about 10 feet apart):

Timeline, pt 1

Timeline, pt 1

Timeline, pt. 2

Timeline, pt. 2

Overall, this was a great hands-on synthesis of one of her favorite subjects with some higher-order thinking. I love it when her “work” feels more like play. Her brain was engaged, but so was her body and her giggle!