Fossil Detectives at Mar Vista Elementary

by Colleen Riggen

Mar Vista Elementary School


This month my students and I had the privilege of meeting Sean.  He came to guest teach in my classroom.  He was very well-prepared and he engaged my students with a hands-on lesson about fossils.  

He made a personal connection with my students right away by describing what a paleontologist is and how he became interested in paleontology.  He taught them how to recognize a fossil and what makes something a fossil.  He then gave groups of four students a bag of ten different fossils and asked them to guess what kind of fossil each was.  The room was abuzz with theories, discussion and debate.  It was awesome!
My student Cody showed me that if you are wondering if something is a fossil or not, you can lick your finger and try to pick it up.  If it sticks that means it is a fossilized bone.  So we all did that for a while and that was really fun too.  Through our exploration we learned that fossilized teeth and shells will not stick.  Sean was there to support the exploration and answer questions in regards to why and how.
After some time Sean gathered my students back together and showed them pictures of each fossil and told them where it came from and what it was.  Some of the fossils were more obvious then others.  The students felt great success because they were able to correctly identified some of the fossils.  They were also left with a sense of wonder and curiosity as they were greatly surprised to discover what some of the fossils were.
I have great appreciation for Sean and the GABI RET Program.  I have already been inspired and learned so much.  Sean modeled a great lesson that I will easily teach in the future. My students were very involved and enthusiastic during his visit which inspires me to create a entire unit on fossils.  I am looking forward to learning so much more this summer!


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