Can You Dig It? Using Paleontology In the GK-12 Classroom to Develop Student Research and Communication Skills
For The University of Tennessee GK-12 Earth Project, twenty-five 8th grade students from Halls Middle School in Knoxville, Tennessee analyzed sediment samples collected from the Mississippian age Pennington Formation of Kentucky. Students were taught basic paleontological techniques, such as wet-sieving, a method by which the clay matrix is separated from the fossils contained within the sediment. Fossil residues were analyzed for taxonomic content and proportion. Additionally, students were introduced to relevant scientific literature that enabled them to identify common taxa, make inferences about community biodiversity, and reconstruct the environment in which these organisms lived.
Students were taught how to use spreadsheet technology as a tool to record and analyze their data. Creation of useful graphs gave the students a visual representation of their findings and these computer-based strategies helped students develop problem-solving skills. Students worked in teams to prepare PowerPoint® presentations that showcased their findings. These presentations were given to their peers in an effort to demonstrate the importance of clear and effective communication skills. Students successfully fielded questions from their peers, many of which required further scientific consideration. Incorporation of activities such as this in the classroom not only excites students but helps foster a better understanding of science.