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TeachNet NYC: Lesson Plans
Digging Into the Past

Project URL:  http://teachersnetwork.org/teachnet-lab/ps101/jmclaughlin/fossils.htm

How it works:

This is a series of lessons on the study of the earth's past, specifically through the study of fossils. Students will dig into a sample box of fossils (plastic) and observe their appearance and location in several layers of dirt. Prior to doing this they will have used the Internet to research the excavation process as well as viewed examples of fossils. Further activities include charting different geological eras in history, learning about endangered species, and writing a letter to Senator Clinton addressing the problem.


1. Establishing timeframes, exploring different periods, examining themes across time and within cultures, and focusing on important turning points in world history help organize the study of world cultures and civilizations. 

2. Researching different kinds of sources (archaeological, artistic, written) about the civilizations in the Americas before the coming of the Europeans 

(Taken from National Standards for World History).


Web browser, web editor, word processing application, plastic fossils and dinosaurs, fossil box, brushes, Crayola model maker, e-mail account

The students:

The student population consists of 32 fifth grade, mainstreamed students of average ability at P.S. 101 in Brooklyn.

Overall value:

This unit reinforces research skills using the Internet, develops cooperation and individual responsibility, and reinforces social studies standards.


Have materials for fossil kit prepared in advance and do a run-through lesson first. Preview any web sites that you will be using.

Joan McLaughlin is a fifth grade teacher at P.S. 101 in Brooklyn.  She is also the advisor to Council for Unity, which encourages understanding and leadership in its young members through community service and discussion groups.  Joan has been teaching for 15 years.

E-mail: jmclaughlin@teachersnetwork.org/teachnet-lab/

Subject areas: Social Studies, Science

Estimated class periods to complete: 5

Grade level: 5-6

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