This lists the logos of programs or partners of NG Education which have provided or contributed the content on this page. Program Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure

  • 1. Display the illustrations to help students understand one way a fossil forms.
    Scroll through the color illustrations and read aloud the captions to help students understand how fossils form. Explain to students that, over millions of years, fossil remains become crushed or broken. They are often incomplete, and scientists must work very carefully to put them back together. Tell students they are going to make a skeleton model of a Tylosaurus, a giant sea reptile that lived more than 65 million years ago.

    2. Have students prepare their work areas.
    Have students lay each black-and-white illustration of the Tylosaurus on a flat, clean surface. Then ask them to cover it with waxed paper and secure it to the surface with tape. Have students gather the other materials they will need.

    3. Have students construct the skeleton model.

    Have students use toothpicks and pasta to form the skeleton. Direct them to start with the spine, or backbone. Then to add other pieces to make the skull, tail, and paddles.

    4. Have students glue the pieces together.
    Have students glue the pieces together and then allow the model to dry completely. Help students to carefully lift the dry model off of the drawing. Then have them use scissors to trim away the waxed paper.

    5. Have students compare their models to their original drawings.
    Have a whole-class discussion. Ask: How similar or different are your finished model and the original drawing? Why?

  • Subjects & Disciplines

    • Earth science
      • Geology

    Learning Objectives

    Students will:

    • construct a skeleton model of an extinct species

    Teaching Approach

    • Learning-for-use

    Teaching Methods

    • Discussions
    • Hands-on learning
    • Visual instruction

    Skills Summary

    This activity targets the following skills:

    • Critical Thinking Skills
      • Creating
      • Understanding

    Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

    National Science Education Standards

  • What You’ll Need

    Materials You Provide

    Required Technology

    • Internet Access: Optional
    • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector

    Physical Space


  • Background Information

    When scientists discover fossil remains, they must work very carefully in order to put them back together.

    Prior Knowledge

    • None

    Recommended Prior Activities

    • None


    Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    fossil Noun

    remnant, impression, or trace of an ancient organism.

    Encyclopedic Entry: fossil
    model Noun

    image or impression of an object used to represent the object or system.



This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1114251. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.