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Be a Paleontologist!

A paleontologist is like a private investigator, searching for clues and evidence of past life. These clues, preserved in sediments or rocks, are called fossils. In this activity, students are asked to think like private investigators working on a case: Where is paleontological evidence of past life likely to be discovered?

Grade Level: 3-12

Wear sunscreen if outside for an extended period. Wear sunglasses on a sunny day. If near a stream, take care: Do not get too close to the water, and be aware of flash flood warnings and fast-moving water. Watch the weather, and check for ticks after returning to the classroom.


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  1. Take a short walk outside and consider the landscape. If you were a paleontologist, in which of the environments nearby would you expect an animal or plant fossil to be preserved?

  2. Think about how fossils are preserved. Are they preserved in places where sediments are deposited or where sediments are eroded? Would a fossil be preserved on a basketball court? Why or why not? Would a fossil be preserved in a muddy area near a stream or lake? Why or why not?

  3. What types of rocks would have fossils in them? Would igneous and metamorphic rocks contain fossils? Would sedimentary rocks? Why?

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