Today I’m happy to announce the availability of a series of paleontology teaching kits, based on casts of fossils from museum collections.
Since we ramped up our molding and casting program almost two years ago, we’ve been searching for new applications of the casts we’ve been producing. Among our first efforts were some high school programs conducted jointly by the VMNH Paleontology, Archaeology, and Mammalogy departments on faunal changes in Virginia since the Pleistocene. These have proven to be popular, but involved a large number of expensive casts.
Brett and I have been working together on a number of projects over the years to try to make historical geology and paleontology more accessible to classroom teachers, and we thought teaching kits based on casts had some potential. Over the last six months or so we’ve been developing those kits, keeping several issues in mind:
- The kits have to teach some coherent lesson (not just “Hey, look, a cool fossil!”).
- They have to be cheap enough for public schools to be able to buy them.
- They have to be durable enough to stand up to repeated classroom use.
It turns out that this is a pretty difficult set of requirements, especially the last two. We went through several different physical drafts of the kits; our initial drafts were too fragile and too expensive. We finally came up with kits that were cheap (under $30) and durable. We premiered the kits at last month’s GSTA meeting, with great success; we have already almost sold out of our initial production run.
We currently have three different kits available for purchase. One of these (Kit 1, $20) includes casts of the Carmel Church Calippus palate and an Equus tooth from Saltville, in which the students attempt to determine the size and age of the horses based on the teeth. The other two kits (Kit 2, $30) compare mammal faunas from three different periods in time (14,000 years ago, 1,000 years ago, and modern) based on tooth casts, and students try to determine why the faunas have changed. There are two different versions of this kit; one based on the fauna of Virginia (Kit 2VA), and one based on Georgia’s fauna (Kit 2GA). In all cases, the kits include correlations with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) or the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs).
We’ve added new pages to the paleontology blog describing these kits, and a permanent link has been added to the sidebar on the right. Right now we can take phone orders, but we will be adding a secure order form in the future.