Dinosaur Fossils: Lesson Plan

In 2013, NC scientists discovered dinosaur fossils in Utah. Find out more about these ancient bones with this introductory lesson plan.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • 8.E.2.1 — Infer the age of Earth and relative age of rocks and fossils from index fossils and the ordering of rock layers (relative dating and radioactive dating).

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the lesson, students will be able to explain:

  • That fossils provide important evidence of how life and environmental conditions have changed. 
  • That a fossil is the preserved remains or traces of an organism that lived in the past.
  • That geologists use radiometric dating to estimate how long ago rocks formed, and to infer the ages of fossils contained within those rocks.

Essential Questions

  1. What is a fossil?
  2. What was the significance of the fossils found?
  3. What can scientists learn from studying fossils?
  4. How does comparing a fossil to existing animals help the scientists better understand the ancient animal?

Essential Vocabulary

  • Fossil
  • Paleontologist
  • Evidence
  • Species
  • Radiometric dating
  • Ecosystem
  • Classify
  • Holotype


Students will view several photographs of dinosaur teeth. Have students work in a small group to discuss each tooth. After they discuss the tooth, ask them to draw conclusions about the type of dinosaur that might have that type of tooth. Click on the dinosaur name to see if they predicted the dinosaur correctly. Following the activity, ask the students: What can scientists learn from studying dinosaur bones? How can these be used to classify dinosaurs into different groups? How have animals changed over the years?


Students will view the NC Science Now video Mystery Dino. After viewing the video, students should answer the questions on the attached PDF. They can discuss their answers with a partner or in small groups.


Students will view the NC Science Now video Digging Dinos. After viewing the video, students should answer the questions on the attached PDF, either individually or in small groups.

Following the video, students will research various other ways of dating Earth and fossils, including relative and radiometric dating methods.

Additional Resources:


In the video, the paleontologist discovered the new fossils by looking in the area. Explain that technology is helping scientists to find these fossils. Have the students watch the NC Science Now Video Dinosaur GPS. Discuss that the changes that have occurred on Earth including the terrain, temperature, landforms and organisms make it difficult to predict where dinosaurs may be found. Ask: How has the GPS technology helped scientists to locate evidence of changing life forms?


Students will imagine they are a part of a team of paleontologists. They have discovered a new fossil and want to determine its approximate date. Have the students write a paragraph, which suggests a method for determining the date and the strengths and limitations of the method. 

Evaluation Rubric