Ideas and Evidence

Observing fossils and what they tell us about animals on earth in the past

Ammonites are tiny shelled creatures that scientists say lived in the oceans, billions of years ago. Considering that no one has ever seen one alive, we think we know a lot about them.

Why do scientists think they existed? Ammonites were once plentiful, say scientists, and we know this because their fossils can be found in many places. Ammonites are sea-creatures, but the sites where the fossils are found are no longer seas. We now find fossils of ammonites when we study and collect rocks!

This animation is one you could watch with a younger student and/or include in your plan, Handy to know that ‘Fossils’ are on the curriculum for children aged 7-10 (and useful background knowledge for older students too!)

Observations and plastic dinosaurs

This video shows you how a teacher can encourage her students to ‘observe’ carefully and then try to draw on their observations to come up with an idea or theory in science. The children are observing plastic dinosaurs and noticing features such as “a long neck” that they can try to explain. If you don’t have your own set of plastic dinosaurs – don’t worry, some other ideas for you shortly! In this video you’ll also see a palaeontologist who wants to share some top tips with you. These tips will give you some inside information – to help you with what to a student about any observations and ideas they come up with.

Try for yourself – teaching about fossils

Here’s a longer version of the video about fossils and ammonites. It starts with Professor Alice Roberts introducing some of the strange and wonderful creatures we think used to roam the earth. Then keep watching and you’ll see a group of children making ‘observations’ of a fossilised ammonite – what do they notice as they pass it around?

Design a scientific enquiry to investigate a question of your choice – making sure it’s a suitable and safe question for a young scientist to investigate

The aim of your session is to help your student to connect ideas and evidence (observations). This is the way that we come up with ideas about the natural world that we can test in science

Extra notes


This link will take you to a survey that will help you to decide on your learning goals for children and also plan a teaching session.

We recommend you use the tool many times. You can choose which sections you answer each time and print / save your answers at the end of each visit.

Session Planning Tool

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