Strand III
Use Scientific Knowledge from the Life Sciences in Real-World Contexts


Science/Strand III
Content Standard 4
All students will explain how scientists construct and scientifically test theories concerning the origin of life and evolution of species; compare ways that living organisms are adapted (suited) to survive and reproduce in their environments; and analyze how species change through time. (Evolution)


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 4


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 4/Elementary
Benchmark 1
Explain how fossils provide evidence about the nature of ancient life.

Benchmark Clarification

Scientists who find and use fossils to create an understanding of the past are paleontologists. A fossil is one of many tools used by scientists to study the history of life on Earth. Fossils can take many forms:

  • An impression of a dead plant or animal that has been replaced by minerals
  • A cast formed by filling in spaces left from footprints or decaying bodies
  • A mold, plant, or animal trapped in tree sap (amber)
  • A preserved specimen of life from a specific time

Students will:

  • Identify the following types of fossils:
    1. An impression of a dead plant or animal that has been replaced by minerals
    2. A mold of a footprint or a decaying body that has been filled in with sand/clay
    3. A fragment/whole animal that has been trapped in tree sap
  • Match fossils with the time period when they were most likely formed
  • Explain another tool scientists use to study the history of life on Earth

Key Concept / Real World Context / Instructional Example / Assessment Example / Resources


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 4/Elementary/Benchmark 1
Key Concept
Words describing types of evidence:

  • fossil
  • extinct
  • ancient
  • modern life forms

See (SCI.V.1.E.4).


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 4/Elementary/Benchmark 1
Real World Context
Common contexts:

  • plant and animal fossils
  • museum dioramas
  • paintings/drawings of ancient life and/or habitats


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 4/Elementary/Benchmark 1
Instructional Example

Benchmark Question: How do scientists acquire evidence about the nature of ancient life?

Focus Question: How are Earth’s layers used to determine the age of a fossil?

Begin by reading a biography about Mary Anning.

Students will create a model of fossil layers similar to the Earth’s. Each pair of students will use approximately one-third of a can of play dough (all one color or three separate colors) and two small items (twigs, leaves, bark, seeds, dead insects, fruit rinds, chicken bones, small shells, or small plastic insects) to make fossil layers in a paper cup. Guide students through the following steps: Put one-third of the play dough in the bottom of the cup, put a specimen on top of the play dough, cover it with another one-third of the play dough and press, put the second specimen on top of this layer, and cover with the remaining one-third of the play dough and press. Students then will discuss which layers in the cup are the oldest and youngest. Students will explain how this activity is similar to the idea that the age of a fossil layer is determined by the order in which it was formed.

Constructing: (SCI.I.1.E.1), (SCI.I.1.E.2), (SCI.I.1.E.5).

Reflecting: (SCI.II.1.E.1), (SCI.II.1.E.4), (SCI.II.1.E.5).


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 4/Elementary/Benchmark 1
Assessment Example

The teacher will collect and redistribute cups, making sure that students do not receive their own cups. Students will open their cups by carefully tearing them down the sides. Students should carefully explore the shapes and patterns that were made by their casts. With a cautious approach, students may be able to keep the molds of their specimens intact. The teacher will ask students which specimens made a good impression or disintegrated, and which lived at an earlier time or lived later. Students will draw conclusions and present their findings based on their observations.

(Give students rubric before activity.)

Scoring Rubric






Identification of layers

Recognizes that objects were buried at different levels (layers).

Locates at least two distinct layers.

Locates all layers and finds evidence of fossils.

Locates all layers and explains that fragile materials disintegrate and therefore not all plants and animals from the past made fossils.

Demonstration of scientific methods

Preserves some evidence of the layers.

Preserves layers and some of the casts.

Preserves the layers and the casts.

Works meticulously like a paleontologist and identifies the specimens precisely.

Accuracy of relationships

Explains that some plants/animals lived a long time ago.

Recognizes that fossils exist within layers of the Earth.

Describes the relationship between layers and the age of specimens.

Provides evidence that not all members of a species (i.e., dinosaurs) became extinct at once


Links climate and other natural disasters with fossil findings.


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 4/Elementary/Benchmark 1

Anning, Mary.

Biographies & fossil information.

“Changes over Time.” A Second Grade Unit by the Battle Creek Area Mathematics & Science Standards.

“Fossils, Fossils.” Sing the Science Standards (Songbook/CD).

Museum of Paleontology