Rock Cycle - Past Life (2B)
Post Lab 

  • Comparing how fossils appear in the literature.
  • Interpreting a story on dinosaurs.
  • carnivore 
  • conifer 
  • coprolite
  • cycad
  • fern
  • Mesozoic

Students discuss scientific information from stories. 

Dinosaur eggs


Many children's books on fossils are difficult to write.  Weaving fact with imagination can imprint wrong concepts in a child's mind that can remain for a lifetime.  Children can easily make the transition from fact to fantasy if it is pointed out.  When reading a book that is fiction statements like, "This is for fun," or "Do you think this is true?" helps a child to challenge what they read.  It is a common misconceptions, even by adults, that when something is written, it is true.  This exercise uses a book on dinosaurs to make children think about they they read.

Going Back through Time with Dinosaurs is about a little boy who wants to learn basic facts about dinosaurs.  His teacher has many misconceptions on dinosaurs and is frustrates the little boy.  The student paleontologist, as he likes to be called, starts to fantasize the way it should be.   Notice that the student is the "hero" of this story.  We have found that students can identify better with a character that is their own age.  Although the student challenges the teacher, it provides an opportunity for the student to use critical thinking skills to weigh fact from fiction. 

Dinosaurs are complex animals that are now extinct.  They have left clues through their fossils which include bones and eggs and trace fossils like footprints and coprolites.  Trace fossils provide indirect information on how the organisms lived.  Scientists are still uncovering new information that can modify our present understanding. 


  1. Read Going Back through Time with Dinosaurs to students or have children read the story out loud. If there is a word that is unfamiliar make sure you define it as you are reading the story.  For example, when you first encounter the word "Mesozoic" refer to it as long ago, from 65 - 146 million years ago.  Words like "carnivore" (meat eater) and "herbivore" (plant eater) should be  defined as you read.  Other words like "coprolite," can be seen in the animation, so you can easily ask the students what it is.  You may want to add that "coprolite" is the scientific name and "poop" is the unscientific name.   Other words like cycad, conifer, and fern refer to plants and you can point to the pictures for help.  Cycads look like a short fat palm tree, but have funny types of seeds.  Conifers are pine-type trees and ferns are low lying plants that have spores instead of seeds.   
  2. Discuss with students the science content of the book.  The key science  points include the Mesozoic and types of fossils found.  

    The Mesozoic is divided into 3 major periods, Triassic (248-206 my), Jurassic (208-146 my), and Cretaceous (146-65 my).  The story brings the student paleontologist back through each period and finds that there are different plants and dinosaurs that lived during that time.  During each of these periods, land and its position changed. 

    The types of fossils that paleontologists use include bones, eggs, footprints and coprolites.  Some provide clues on what the animals looked like (bones) and other help provide details of how the animal lived (eggs, footprints, coprolites).
  3. The last two pages of the book try to emphasize that after the Cretaceous the fossils of these big land animals cannot be found.  There are debates of how this extinction occurred.  Some have data that suggest a large meteorite may have caused a catastrophe.  Other paleontologists conclude from the data that there was a gradual lost of habitat which caused the extinction of dinosaurs and many other organisms.  But then many organisms did survive and continued into the Cenozoic.    

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