Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Fossil Ammonites


Title: Fossil Ammonites

Air Date: May 30, 2019

Series: Smithsonian Science How webcasts, which are designed to connect natural history science and research to upper-elementary and middle-school students.

In this video, go behind the scenes at the Smithsonian to meet Dr. Lucy Chang, Paleobiologist at the National Museum of Natural History. Sharing ammonite fossils from the Smithsonian’s collection, Lucy explains what ammonites are and how scientists use their fossils to understand what they looked like, what they ate, and how they lived. She helps students hone their pattern recognition skills by comparing fossil ammonites to related, living animals today like squid and nautilus. Lucy shares why she studies ammonites, how she uses their fossils to discover patterns of extinction and evolution, and what she’s discovered so far.

The video supports standards of learning that help students understand how scientists analyze and interpret data from fossils, how the ammonite body plans support survival in the ocean, and how patterns in the fossil record document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life throughout the history of life on Earth. See the complete list of NGSS Standards alignment.

Teaching Resources

Use these resources to support pre/post activities:

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

3rd Grade

Life Science

  • 3-LS3-1: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence that plants and animals have traits inherited from parents and variation of these traits exists in a group of similar organisms.
  • 3-LS4-1: Analyze and interpret data from fossils to provide evidence of the organisms and the environments in which they lived long ago.
  • 3-LS4-2: Use evidence to construct an explanation for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing.
  • 3-LS4-3: Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

4th Grade

Life Science

  • 4-LS1-1: Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

Earth Science

  • 4-ESS1-1: Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers to support an explanation for changes in a landscape over time.

6-8th Grade

Life Science

  • MS-LS4-1: Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past.
  • MS-LS4-2: Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships.

Earth Science

  • MS-ESS1-4: Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence from rock strata for how the geologic time scale is used to organize Earth’s 4.6-billion-year-old history.
  • MS-ESS2-2: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales.
Resource Type
Videos and Webcasts
Grade Level
Learning Standards
Next Generation Science Standards
Earth Science, Life Science, Paleontology