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Fossil Age Estimation Model

Source Institutions

    Twin Cities Public Television

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Fossil Age Estimation Model

In this activity (page 1 of the PDF under SciGirls Activity: Dinosaurs), learners will model how paleontologists estimate the age of fossil discoveries by extracting “fossil” playing cards from newspapers stacked in chronological order. Learners identify the “age” of the card based on the “evidence” (printed date) in the surrounding pages. They then create a data table and graph and analyze their findings. Use this activity to introduce learners to paleontology and geology. Relates to the linked video, DragonflyTV GPS: Dinosaurs.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Sunday newspapers, collected over 6-8 weeks
  • ruler (centimeter or inches)
  • string, cut into 12-inch lengths
  • a deck of cards (use 6 individual cards per stack of papers)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Geochemical Cycles
    • Earth Structure
      • Rocks and Minerals
    • Earth's History
      • Geologic Time
      • Fossils
      • Dinosaurs
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
    • Problem Solving
    • Reasoning and Proof
    • Representation
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • About Inquiry
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
    • Science as a Career

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities

Culture, ethnicity, and gender

  • Girls

    • Highlights STEM opportunities for this group
    • Identifies role models or mentors in STEM fields from this group
    • Uses inclusive images of people from this group


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection:

  • DragonflyTV


  • All Rights Reserved, Twin Cities Public Television, Inc., ©2006

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 436260


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