Maggie and I recently traveled to Clayton-Bradley Academy to explore fossils and different animals with pre-K students. We have a set of fossils we usually bring with and a guideline of topics to hit with various age levels but planning for pre-K never works out!
We tried to keep it simple and hands-on. Each of the samples we brought with us was relatively large and the students were able to touch everything. We first showed them a sample of Lepidodendron – which is often mistaken for scales or dinosaur skin. We discussed how it was a plant, what the shapes meant, and how there is no plant material left.
We then examined various teeth and had the students compare them to their own teeth. The students could feel in their mouth and find the sharper versus flat teeth to compare to the fossils that they were exploring. We had a large mammoth molar that we passed around and most of the students thought that it was ribs from an animal. We oriented them and told them it was actually a tooth and to think about what sort of animal would have a tooth that big today. Younger children often have difficulty connecting words/names with the actual animal so we brought with images of these animals to help visually remind the students of what we are talking about. They couldn’t come to the conclusion of mammoth on their own but once we showed the image they remembered a similar animal from movies (mostly Ice Age) and you could see the wheels turning. It is always an adventure traveling to new schools and interacting with different age groups. It really tests your ability to modify your vocabulary and thought process.