Fossil Evidence & Environmental Change Lesson Plan

Instructor: Joanne Abramson

Joanne has taught middle school and high school science for more than ten years and has a master's degree in education.

In this lesson plan, middle school students explore the concept of fossil evidence. Students will watch a video lesson and then, with a partner, create a model fossil record showing climate change.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain how the fossil record can show evidence for changes in environment and life conditions
  • analyze data in the fossil record for evidence of changes in environment and life conditions


1-1.5 hours

Curriculum Standards

  • NGSS MS-LS4-1

Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past.


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.

Key Terms

  • radioactive dating
  • relative geologic dating
  • strata
  • La Brea Tar Pits
  • Foraminifera


  • Images of various fossilized organisms
  • Microscope images of foraminifera
  • Black line diagrams of foraminifera (see Preparation for details)
  • Construction paper
  • Colored pencils
  • Scissors
  • Glue



  • For the activity, students will be creating a fossil record of foraminifera. Find black line diagrams of benthic, shallow, warm and cold foraminifera. (If you can't find exact examples of each, you can just pretend.)
  • Create labeled handouts of each type of foraminifera. Students will be cutting them out and gluing them onto their fossil record.


  • Begin the lesson by showing students images of fossils. Give them a few moments to discuss their observations. Ask students to share what they already know about fossils.
  • Explain that in today's lesson they will be learning more about fossils and how scientists use them to learn about our planet.
  • Start the video lesson Using Fossil Evidence to Evaluate Changes in Environment & Life Conditions. Pause at 1:54. Ask the following discussion questions:
    • What are some things that we can learn by looking at fossils?
    • What is radioactive dating?
    • What is relative geological aging?
  • Return to the video and watch it to the end. Ask students the following questions:
    • What are strata?
    • How does the fossils record show evidence of climate change?
    • How can the fossil record show changes in life conditions?
    • What are the La Brea Tar Pits? Why are they important to paleontologists?
  • To check for understanding, project the lesson quiz and complete it as a class.

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