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Age: 2nd grade and higher (can be made more or less difficult, depending on grade)

Summary: This activity is designed to be used with the "Progression of Life" poster by Stephen F. Greb (1988), which can be ordered from the Kentucky Geological Survey, or viewed online as part of this activity. The activity links biological classification (vertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, etc.) with fossils and earth history in a fun game. Students search for their topic from among more than 150 different types of ancient animals and plants pictured on the poster, based on their knowledge of animals and plants today. The activity can be played as a group or individually. It can be made easier for grade school and middle school students, or harder for high school and college students. The activity can be done in class, or can be made part of a take-home assignment with the "Guide to the Progression of Life" booklet.



Background: Prior to the activity, students should be provided with information about animal classification. They should understand what vertebrates, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and birds are. Some students will have received this information in previous classes. You may want to review the characteristics of these major animal groups before starting the activity. Explain to students that we can use some of the skeletal features of the different animal groups when we are interpreting fossils. Fossils are any evidence of ancient life preserved in stone. Fossils found in different layers of the earth are evidence that life has changed through time. The poster the "Progression of Life" shows animals and plants that have been found as fossils, from some of the oldest at the bottom right corner, to some of the youngest in the upper right corner.


  1. Review the different types of animals (amphibians, fish, birds, reptiles, and mammals) with your students.
  2. Define fossils and explain that fossils provide evidence that life has changed through time. Most students will be familiar with dinosaurs. Dinosaurs can be used as an example of a group of animals that are found in the fossil record, but are not alive today. Explain to students that scientists use what they know about modern animals and plants to interpret fossil animals and plants. For example, the bones of dinosaurs are similar to the bones of reptiles, so scientists think that many dinosaurs looked like reptiles.
  3. Show students the "Progression of Life" poster. (a) You can use on poster and have the class gather around it. (b) You can use multiple posters and have the students work individually or in groups (depending on the number of posters and students). (c) You can project the color digital image of the poster provided here.
  4. Provide the students with worksheets below. You can give different students different worksheets, or have the class work on the same worksheet. You can use the blank worksheet to create your own activity or use the example sheet for some simple suggestions for questions.
  5. Have the students find the animals or plants indicated on their worksheets. For younger students, you can let them use the answer key on the back of the poster for help. For older students, you can make the activity a take-home project and let them use the "Progression of Life" booklet, or other library materials to find the answers to the worksheets.

Worksheets [pdf format] include:

Answer Keys [pdf format] include: