Paleontology Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

With this lesson plan, your students will get to learn about paleontology as a science. They will discuss the history, objectives, and challenges of paleontology, and will practice analyzing paleontological data through a short group activity.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define the goals of paleontology as a science
  • Explain the methods and challenges of paleontology
  • Think critically about the analysis of paleontological evidence


45-60 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or descriptions.


Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.


  • Printed copies of Lesson Quiz
  • Packets with diagrams of skeletons of:
    • Tyrannosaurus Rex
    • Stegosaurus
    • Camarasaurus
    • Plesiosaurus
    • Hadrosaurus
  • Bags that each contain a selection of individual paper bones that match the skeletons of two of the creatures in the packet
  • Bags that contain additional evidence
    • Some should contain images of fossil seashells and fish
    • Some should contain images of fossil plants/leaves
    • Some should contain images of fossilized dinosaur footprints


  • Play video lesson What is Paleontology? - Definition, History, and Facts. Stop lesson at 0:56 to discuss this section as a class.
    • What is paleontology? (Remind them that paleontologists study all ancient and fossilized creatures, not only dinosaurs).
    • What is a fossil?
    • What sort of things do paleontologists look for? What aren't they looking for? (Human remains and artifacts).
    • What other elements of ancient ecosystems could become fossilized besides bones?
  • Resume video. Stop at 1:48.
    • Draw a timeline onto the board. Write 'Extinction of dinosaurs' on one end, and ask students how many years passed between this and the present day (65 million years). Write that on the other end.
    • How long have people been aware of dinosaurs? Mark that on the timeline.
    • What did ancient peoples think about dinosaur remains?
  • Resume video, and ask students to take note of any additional dates. Stop video at 3:55.
    • Are there any additional dates from this section we can add to the timeline on the board?
    • What does the term 'Dinosaur' mean?
    • Which modern animals do we believe evolved from dinosaurs?
  • Resume video and play through the end.
    • What environments preserved fossils the best? Why do you think these environments were so great at preserving fossils?
    • What are the challenges of paleontology?
    • How can new discoveries change our understanding of a fossil?
  • Test student understanding with Lesson Quiz.

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