While many depictions of STEM typically focus on the shiny technology and awe-inspiring creations that lie in our future, there is also a lot that can be gained from casting our eyes back to the past and using the modern inventions that we have created to understand more about a world that existed so long ago.
Ichnology is a fascinating field that focuses on the creatures that once called this planet their home – and we have put together all you need to know to learn more and to teach this topic in a child-friendly way.
What Is Ichnology?
Ichnology is the study of trace fossils. Trace fossils are any type of physical evidence of past life that has been preserved in rocks, and some of the best examples include footprints, trails, and burrows, all of which provide us with a fascinating insight into the way that creatures once lived.
Scientists who specialize in ichnology can learn a lot about ancient environments by studying these fossils. For instance, they can tell what kind of animals lived in an area, how they moved around, or even their eating habits.
They can also help us to understand how the environment has changed over time, providing an invaluable resource for scientists and historians alike.
Why Is Ichnology Important?
Ichnology is an incredibly important field, as it can tell us a lot about the environment and climate of ancient times, as well as the types of animals that were living in these areas.
For example, fossils found in desert regions often indicate that there were once large mammals living in the area, while coastal regions may have been home to many sea creatures.
In addition, studying trace fossils can help us understand more about the evolution of certain species, as well as how they interacted with each other and their environment.
For example, some trace fossils indicate that animals may have formed social groups or worked together to build structures for shelter.
How Can I Teach Kids About Ichnology?
There are a number of ways to explore and experience this topic with children, and some of the best options include:
Go Fossil Hunting
One of the best ways to learn is through practical experience, and there are plenty of places around the world where you can go fossil hunting with your kids.
Many national parks in the US have fossil beds that children can explore, while there are also many museums that offer special guided tours.
Create Your Own Fossils
Why not create your own fossils? All you need is some clay, paper, or even play dough and a few small items such as leaves, shells, or stones. Have your children press these items into the clay and then leave it to dry.
Once hardened, you can use paint to fill in the imprints and create a unique fossil of your own.
Visit A Museum
The best way to truly understand this topic is by visiting a museum and looking at some real fossils from long ago.
Most museums have ichnology exhibits where you can learn more about the animals that roamed the earth so long ago, and you can even get up close and personal with some of these specimens.
Research The Field
If you’re looking to learn more about ichnology, then why not do some research? There are plenty of books and articles which provide a great insight into this field, so it’s worth taking the time to read up and gain a better understanding.
Alternatively, there are many websites that offer plenty of information and resources on the topic, so it’s definitely worth exploring.
Create A Poster About Your Chosen Fossil
Another option is to have your kids create a poster about their favorite trace fossils. They can research the fossil, provide some information about it, and illustrate it to make an eye-catching poster.
It’s a great way for them to learn more about ichnology and get creative at the same time – and also allows them to share their knowledge and learning with their peers by displaying their posters.
Act Out A Day In The Life of An Ichnologist
If you really want your kids to have a chance to experience ichnology, then why not give them the opportunity to act out a day in the life of an ichnologist?
Give them some props, such as a magnifying glass and a notebook, and let them explore their own backyard or a nearby park. Have them look for clues and document what they find to get a better understanding of how an ichnologist works.
This is a chance to really get hands-on with the topic and have some fun!
Where Did They Live?
Another activity is to ask children to draw out their own fossils and use their knowledge and understanding to help them interpret where the animal may have lived in its time (e.g. sandy beach or mud flats).
This is a great way to encourage creative thinking and interpretation, while also helping them to develop their understanding of ichnology even further.
Make Your Own Footprints
Bring ichnology to life and have your children make their own footprints in the sand or mud. They can then compare their footprints with the trace fossils they’ve seen, and try to identify similarities between them – a great way to really experience how these ancient creatures moved around.
Ichnology is an interesting and engaging topic that kids will enjoy learning about, and there are plenty of great activities that you can do to help them understand it better.
From creating their own fossils to visiting a museum, and from drawing out their own trace fossils to going out and making their own footprints – there are so many ways that you can explore ichnology with your children.
So why not get out there and start having some fun, while gaining a better understanding of this fascinating field?
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