The first lab activity for the course is called "PaleontologyâPast, Present, and Future". In addition to discussing several documents related to present and future research directions in the field, students review a brief timeline of the historical development of paleontology as a science. Then they get their first opportunity to work directly with fossils. Students are presented with a set of fossil specimens in boxes (with no identifying labels). Each student selects one fossil of their own. They are asked to make and record very close, detailed observations of the specimen, and to sketch the fossil. Then they are told to "think like it's 1600." Someone has brought this object, taken out of the local rocks, for the student to investigate. The student must write a "proof" that this fossil was obviously once alive, and is not just an interesting mineral or rock formation. They can use their observations, compare the specimen to other objects with which they're familiar, resort to pure logic, or apply any other avenue of argumentation they think will help make their case. Note: In the next lab, on fossil preservation and taphonomy, the students revisit their fossil specimen, and determine its mode of preservation. Indeed, the student's "pet fossil" could be used throughout the course to illustrate various components of the course content.


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