Resource Image Science Sampler: Fossil sharks—Learning from and about the past

by: Catalina Pimiento and Rose M. Pringle
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Type of Resource: Journal Article
Average Rating: Rating
 based on 3 reviews
Publication Title: Science Scope
Publication Date: 2/1/2011
Grade Level: Middle School


In this article, the authors describe a series of science activities for middle school students that focuses on the study of fossil sharks through an examination of the morphological characteristics of their teeth by using models, drawings, and websites. The activities presented are intended to guide students toward an understanding of timescales and fossils as providing important evidence of how life and environmental conditions have changed over time.

Ideas For Use


Additional Info

Science Discipline: (mouse over for full classification)
Plate tectonics
Geologic time
Cartilagenous fish
Analyzing data
Asking questions
Collecting data
Interpreting data
Scientific habits of mind
Intended User Role:Curriculum Supervisor, Middle-Level Educator, Teacher
Educational Issues:Assessment of students, Classroom management, Curriculum, Inquiry learning, Instructional materials, Professional development, Teacher preparation, Teaching strategies


Resource Format:
Size: KB
Installation Remarks:

National Standards Correlation

This resource has 18 correlations with the National Standards.  

This resource has 18 correlations with the National Standards.  

  • Life Science
    • Diversity and adaptations of organisms
      • Fossils indicate that many organisms that lived long ago are extinct. (5-8)
  • Earth Science
    • Properties of earth materials
      • Fossils provide evidence about the plants and animals that lived long ago and the nature of the environment at that time.
    • Earth's history
      • The earth processes we see today, including erosion, movement of lithospheric plates, and changes in atmospheric composition, are similar to those that occurred in the past. (5-8)
      • Fossils provide important evidence of how life and environmental conditions have changed (5-8)
    • Origin and evolution of the earth system
      • Geologic time can be estimated by observing rock sequences and using fossils to correlate the sequences at various locations. (9-12)
  • Science as Inquiry
    • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
      • Ask a question about objects, organisms, and events in the environment. (K-4)
      • Use data to construct a reasonable explanation.
      • Communicate investigations and explanations.
      • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data.
      • Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations.
    • Understandings about scientific inquiry
      • Scientists develop explanations using observations (evidence) and what they already know about the world (scientific knowledge). Good explanations are based on evidence from investigations. (K-4)
  • Process Standards for Professional Development
    • Design
      • Introduce teachers to scientific literature, media, and technological resources that expand their science knowledge and their ability to access further knowledge. (NSES)
  • Teaching Standards
    • Teachers of science plan an inquiry-based science program for their students.
      • Select science content and adapt and design curricula to meet the interests, knowledge, understanding, abilities, and experiences of students.
      • Select teaching and assessment strategies that support the development of student understanding and nurture a community of science learners.
    • Teachers of science guide and facilitate learning. In doing this, teachers
      • Orchestrate discourse among students about scientific ideas.
    • Teachers provide students with the time, space, and resources needed to learn science.
      • Create a setting for student work that is flexible and supportive of science inquiry.
      • Make the available science tools, materials, media, and technological resources accessible to students.
    • Teachers of science develop communities of science learners that reflect the intellectual rigor of scientific inquiry.
      • Nurture collaboration among students.

User Reviews

Ancient Shark Teeth
  Adah (San Antonio, TX) on January 6, 2012
  Using fossilized shark teeth students learn about geology, geography and paleontology. These authors provide a series of activities that link these three areas and provide students with insights about how fossils help scientists understand the world a long time ago. These activities would certainly spice up what students might otherwise consider a boring topic. They are certainly going to enhance student’s interest in this topic.

Excellent Introdcutory Activity
  Kendra Young (Lake Stevens, WA) on October 25, 2011
  I especially liked this activity because it focuses on the movement of continents and allows students to investigate what this truly means. It's one thing to tell students this and show them diagrams about it - and quite another thing to help them realize that it means that environments have changed over time and that means, "Yes, sharks used to live where were there's now only land." This is a hard concept for some students to grasp. For an introductory activity, I think Fossil Sharks does an excellent job of clearing up any previous misconceptions and preparing students to move forward.

Using shark teeth to review geologic time
  Tina Harris (Fairmount, IN) on July 30, 2011
  This set of activities presents a series of lessons on both fossils and how the earth's surface has changed over time. This is not an inquiry lesson, although suggestions for ways it might be altered to allow more student ownership are presented but not emphasized. It is an interesting set of lessons, but misconceptions related to geologic time are not well addressed. It does do a nice job of presenting students with examples of how the land's surface has changed over time to allow fossils of sharks to now be found on areas that are land. With additional lessons on geologic time, these lessons could be a part of a larger unit that meets student needs.