Fossil Forensics can serve as a quick introduction to evolution, but it's better used as an in-class activity along with the website's student and teacher guides as lessons. Or, teachers can use the game as a launching point, and follow up with more explicit instruction on how evolution works, with references to and illustrations of the existing fossil record of actual prehistoric creatures. Students could then do research into contemporary animals that interest them and into the evolutionary development of those animals. Via a presentation or project portfolio, students could then submit a rough evolutionary tree showing how traits evolved and why, and how different species are related to one another. Outside of biology, Fossil Forensics' style of analysis pairs well with an archaeology unit, where scientists use similarly evidence-based comparative analysis but focus on culture.Continue reading Show less
Fossil Forensics is a short browser-based game that shows students how scientists examine fossil evidence. Students take on the role of creating museum displays that include evolutionary connections among fictional fossils. The game has a pleasant visual style, and uses familiar connect-the-dots style gameplay that students should find appealing. To do their scientific analysis, students look at the skeletons of a set of fictional creatures, connect similar attributes between the fossils, and then make claims about evolutionary progression. The controls are simple, but drawing the connections requires attention to detail and close examination of similarities. Be aware that students might rely on random guessing rather than thinking critically, so try to encourage more thoughtful play.
If the game is used in the context of the student and teacher guides on the website, it can function ably as part of a larger lesson and conversation on fossils, adaptation, and evolution. Students who play methodically will do some scientific thinking, but without the external materials, there's not enough grounding in actual science to connect critical thinking to the content. Students analyze fictional fossils, and they make broad evolutionary claims with just a little evidence. Still, students study different parts of fossils such as skull holes, limb structure, teeth type, beak composition, tail type, ambulatory method, and more. Advanced students might be bored by the lack of depth, but students who just need a quick primer on evolution should be satisfied.
Key Standards Supported
Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6–8 texts and topics.
Key Standards Supported
Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
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.
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.