Leaves of Change: Reading the Fossil Record

A new Nature in the Classroom lesson!

This "field trip back in time" is a free resource for local educators that combines hands-on learning with the wonders of the fossil record to discover how the climate of Washington has changed in the past 100 million years. Students will examine modern leaves to determine how leaf shape is influenced by climate, and compare their findings with fossilized leaves.

How is the lesson taught?

Leaves of Change is a lesson on fossils designed for 5th grade students that teach critical thinking and graphing, as well as how to interpret data, using modern and fossil leaves from the museum.

The Leaves of Change lesson is taught over three days, taking approximately 1.5 hours each day. All supplies are provided. Teachers may request that a museum educator come to the classroom to teach the lessons or request to check-out the kits after receiving training.

This lesson includes botany, paleontology, climate, graphing, and math.

Next Generation Science Standards met by this lesson:

  • MS-LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
  • 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.
  • MS-LS4-2 Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships.
  • MS-LS4-4 Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals' probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.
  • MS-LS4-6 Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time.

Important Documents for Teachers

If you would like to view digital copies of the materials, please see below.