Pack A Truck for a Paleontological Excavation
My goals are to get students to think about what is involved in preparing and carrying out a field expedition, as well as to engage students in a basic quantitative exercise.
S.6.A.2 - Processes, Procedures, and Tools of Scientific Investigations
S.7.A.2 - Processes, Procedures, and Tools of Scientific Investigations
S.8.A.2 - Processes, Procedures, and Tools of Scientific Investigations
PDF files are attached
Class Time Required
This activity, along with a short introduction, will fill a 50-minute class period.
I came across this exercise on the Project Exploration website and have used it as an in-class exercise for a course I teach on Dinosaurs. My goals are to get students to think about what is involved in preparing and carrying out a field expedition, as well as to engage students in a basic quantitative exercise. I like to expose my students to the process of science, and in this case, what it takes to think about and prepare for an expedition in the desert.
I like to start with a short video clip or two so students can see what a field environment looks like for digging up dinosaur bones. The American Museum of Natural History has some excellent short videos, such as How are dinosaur fossils discovered and collected?
Below is the description that appeared on the Project Exploration Resource page:
"How are you going to get more than a dozen people across the Sahara and back? What if one of the vehicles breaks down? What will the team eat in the field? How much will they eat? What if someone gets hurt? These are the kinds of questions you need to answer if you are planning an expedition. In this activity decide how to pack the Land Rovers and calculate what you are allowed to bring along."
The link to the actual activity was removed so the PDF files have been attached.
I have modified this exercise by increasing the number of the people on the expedition to sixteen and have four trucks available to pack. I break the students into teams and hand out four sketches of the truck outline to each group (or instead of generating handouts, an instructor can project the outline of the truck and have students create sketches and work through the calculations in their notebooks). Interestingly, after several semesters of utilizing this activity, I rarely find that my students figure out they can pack one truck with four people and the supplies they need and multiply that configuration by four! At the end of the class period, I like to review an actual dinosaur expedition packing list from Dr. Paul Sereno's 2000 expedition to Niger.
I have found that students like the challenge of seeing if they can pack the jackhammer. This exercise could be reworded and placed in a different context - an expedition for rocks/minerals, for example.